How we tackle the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a medium-sized business

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This article was written by Katie Allen, Fiix’s Sustainability and Social Impact Manager.

There’s quite a bit of buzz around the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) these days — and rightfully so! This is the first time we have been able to act together on a global scale to create change for the better. Every individual, government, and organization has an opportunity to create a more sustainable world, and this framework can help guide our actions.

We’ve used the UN Sustainable Development Goals to guide our social impact work at Fiix for the last five years. Our journey to achieving these goals and our progress is outlined below.

What are the UN Sustainable Development Goals?

The UN Sustainable Development Goals are 17 objectives set out by the United Nations in late 2015. They are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. The UN set a target date to complete these goals 2030, which means we have just nine more years to collectively reduce poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, and injustice to the levels laid out by the SDGs.

Sustainable Development Goals

How we incorporated the goals

Our high level approach to incorporating the UN SDGs into our impact strategy

  1. Understand your industry challenges and set your organizational goals.
  2. Engage your stakeholders in the process to understand what their priorities and expectations are.
  3. Track, measure, and communicate progress against the UN SDGs and how they tie to your organizational goals.

These goals are not the responsibility of governments alone. Businesses must use their considerable influence and resources to create change as well. Many are doing just that by incorporating the SDGs into their strategies. This is a process we undertook at Fiix and here’s how we did it:

1. Start at the top

We started by looking at our business model, our industry, and what challenges we face as a software company. This was critical for us to create alignment between our goals and the goals of the international community. This alignment allowed us to create meaningful change at the local level that contributes to corporate objectives, while advancing the global sustainability agenda.

When we began this process, we were using the triple bottom line model (people, planet, profit) to guide our actions. Under each pillar, we committed to being a more inclusive, sustainable, and responsible business.

We broke that down further to explain what each commitment meant to us in three high-level goals:

  1. We want the technology industry to be accessible and inclusive, so anyone can participate in tech.
  2. We want to make the planet a better place for future generations by supporting initiatives for climate change mitigation.
  3. We want to be profitable in a responsible and ethical way, using 1% of revenue to make a meaningful difference in the world.

2. Consult stakeholders

While every goal is important, we knew we had to narrow our focus or risk spreading ourselves too thin and accomplishing nothing. We wanted to choose the goals to focus on together with our employees and customers. We did this by sending a survey to all staff and customers to better understand the issues that were most important to them.

Our stakeholders ended up selecting five UN SDGs that we’d put all our efforts into helping accomplish:

Quality education
Gender equality
Decent work
Responsible consumption
Life on land

3. Track, measure, and report

To effectively track and measure our impact on the chosen goals, we identified targets that connected to our overall business strategy. Each UN SDG has roughly 20 targets and we narrowed it down to one or two.

Next, it was a matter of making progress against these targets. We initiated a number of programs internally, and externally, and we partnered with community organizations that supported the goals. This ranged from implementing more equitable policies to partnering with local nonprofits. You can see all our programs outlined in the table below.

All of our targets and our progress toward them is communicated to our stakeholders at https://fiixsoftware.com/impact. Transparency is critical to an effective program as it keeps us accountable. This is our way of highlighting where we’re hitting our targets and making a positive impact as well as where we’re falling short and where we could be doing better. Traditionally, we developed a physical report every year that was also turned into a digital copy. But we moved away from this model and added everything to the Fiix website. Not only does this provide a digital dashboard that makes it easier to see where we’re living up to expectations and where we need to close the gap, it also can be updated regularly, instead of just once a year. We want to remove any and all barriers to the reader and ensure the message has as much reach as possible.

Progress to date

Here’s the impact of our work so far:

Commitment

Fiix Goal

UN Sustainable Development Goal

Related Target

Progress to date (May, 2021)

Inclusivity

We want the technology industry to be accessible and inclusive, so anyone can participate in tech.

Quality education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship.

Gender equality

Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

Ensure women’s full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic and public life.

  • Increased representation of all women-identifying employees from 18% to 27%
  • Implemented a robust diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity strategy
  • Hosted 10 women in tech events to build community and increase leadership skills
  • Donated $21,000 to Women in Reliability and Asset Management to increase representation in the industry
  • Donated $2,500 to Jean Augustine Centre to empower young women

Sustainability

We want to make the planet a better place for future generations by supporting initiatives for climate change mitigation.

Responsible consumption

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

  • Saved customers over 131 tons of paper by digitizing their work orders — equating to 3,144 trees
  • Diverted 71% of our waste from the landfill
  • Additional waste streams collected at head office: Organics, foil packaging, e-waste, batteries, and ink cartridges
Life on land

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Mobilize and significantly increase financial resources from all sources to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity and ecosystems.

Responsibility

We want to be profitable in a responsible and ethical way, putting 1% of revenue to work to make a meaningful difference in the world.

Decent work

Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services.

  • Sponsored $5,000 for the Next Economy Series with the Centre for Social Innovation
  • Donated $5,000 to Access for Success
  • Ranked as one of Canada’s fastest growing companies by Growth 500 in 2018, 2019, and 2020
  • Grew Fiix into one of Canada’s fastest growing companies employing 210 employees in 2021
  • Recognized as one of Canada’s fastest growing tech companies,on the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 list in 2019 and 2020
  • Ranked as one of The Globe and Mail’s top growing companies in 2019 and 2020

Resources

This is not the only way of integrating the UN SDGs into your business model. This is our experience and we are always looking to improve our process while amplifying our impact. Here are some resources we have found to be useful for small to medium-sized businesses looking to take a similar approach.

Understanding your industry challenges: Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

Understanding the goals from a business perspective: SDG compass

Communicating and implementing the goals as an SME: Green Economy Canada

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