OpenConcept & the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals



September 29, 2018

SDGs Goals PosterI am often inspired by the work of Tim Frick and the team at Mightybytes. He recently published an article on Aligning Your Organization with U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I’m going to try not to repeat the work he’s done, but try to add to it. You should read his article.

The world is facing some rather unprecedented challenges. A great many of these challenges caused by unfettered capitalism. This is made worse with belief that profit is the only goal business should pursue. Greed was turned into a virtue and self-interest given primacy.

About the same time I started listening to an episode of Seth Godin's podcast (Akimbo) - The spirit of the game. He argues effectively that we can reshape the rules of the game if they do not serve us. Our economy is a type of game. We can change the incentives to think long-term and support our community/environment.

This isn't news for lot of businesses. There is a growing movement that is expanding the definition of who a business should serve. Every organization needs to make more than it spends, so profit isn’t something that we can eliminate. OpenConcept defines itself as a “not-only-for-profit” business. We set out other goals that help us determine our success. Being a Certified B Corporation allows us to learn from some of the best companies in the world.

The annual B Corp Champions’ Retreat has ended in New Orleans. This year I wasn’t able to make it. I have gone twice and it is an amazing opportunity to learn from the most innovative companies in the world. Fortunately, some of the talks are up on Youtube. There was a discussion about SDGs last year in Toronto. Reflecting on the SDGs, I do not know another group of companies who are doing more to embody them.

We joined the B Corp community back in 2013 because we saw that there was an opportunity to be part of a network of companies that saw the big picture. We also joined Carbon 613 because being part of a local initiative to reduce our CO2 would help. Carbon 613 is part of a larger network called Green Economy Canada. We’ve recently signed up as a signatory to the UN Global Compact, because it was a simple addition. Their Ten Principles are ones that every organization should endorse.

Adding our small voice to these networks helps illustrate that these issues matter to business. There are a growing number of businesses who committed to long-term sustainability. This week is Global Goals Week, a time for all organizations to reflect on how their goals align with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

There is a huge amount to accomplish in a short period of time. The goals are broad, but there are ways that every organization can play a part. There are a range of activities that any organization can take part of. Tim’s outlined some of them in his article. I love to point out that it is free to take B Lab’s sustainability survey, the B Impact Assessment. It is a terrific way to reflect on what more your organization can do to help achieve the SDGs.

Becoming a Certified B Corp has done more than anything else to align our business with the SDGs.

OpenConcept & SDGs

  • GOAL 1 (No Poverty) - we paying all our employees a living wage and offering the best benefits that we can afford.
  • GOAL 2 (Zero Hunger) - we provide lunch.
  • GOAL 3 (Good Health and Well-being) - we have a health and wellness plan which employees are entitled. We also encourage cycling or walking to work.
  • GOAL 4 (Quality Education) - we have clients in the education sector, which supports SDGs.
  • GOAL 5 (Gender Equality) - we are very supportive to its LGBTQ staff, and are now led by a woman General Manager. We also support Ottawa's Ladies Learning Code Community.
  • GOAL 6 (Clean Water and Sanitation) - by having low flush toilets.
  • GOAL 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy) - All scope 1 & 2 CO2 emissions are provided through renewable sources via Bullfrog Power. Our servers are hosted in a Carbon Neutral data centre and we are paying offsets for our flights.
  • GOAL 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth) - we provide bonuses when possible.
  • GOAL 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) - through looking at ways to reduce the energy consumption of websites.
  • GOAL 10 (Reduced Inequality) - we limit the wage gap between our highest & lowest paid employees.
  • GOAL 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities) - we encourage cycling where possible.
  • GOAL 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) - we buy ENERGY STAR® products and look to recycle our eWaste.
  • GOAL 13 (Climate Action) - we have set targets for reducing our consumption along with others in Carbon 613.
  • GOAL 14 (Life Below Water) - we do our best to minimize plastic consumption.
  • GOAL 15 (Life on Land) - we have provided meeting space for political organizations promoting sustainability.
  • GOAL 16 (Peace and Justice Strong Institutions) - we support Civic Tech and Open Government initiatives which encourage transparency and citizen engagement.
  • GOAL 17 (Partnerships to achieve the Goal) - we work with governments, unions, non-profits and progressive businesses. We are building long-term relationships with organizations with aligned goals SDGs.


Moving Toward 2030: Not Business as Usual

As Tim says:

“For many, using sustainable development goals as a business framework can be a new way of thinking about how to run an organization. Purpose and profit are no longer mutually exclusive but rather interwoven with the fabric of how a company or nonprofit operates. You don’t have to become a Certified B Corp to create positive societal impact (though we think it certainly couldn’t hurt). We encourage organizations of any size or type to join us in working toward the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals. The clock is ticking. People and planet notwithstanding, your organization will be all the better for it!”

If you are interested in learning more about how your business can be involved, sign up for his Social Innovation Workshop.

About The Author

Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.