Why honesty is the best policy when talking about the SDGs 

The environmental, social and economic challenges we face, they’re all connected. This is recognised by the 17 goals, and 169 targets that sit underneath them – known collectively as the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Covering a diverse range of issues including gender equality, sustainable cities, access to clean water and good governance; the goals have reached buzzword status. As their popularity grows, there is the risk that they become more of a box ticking exercise for businesses, a form of greenwashing. To avoid this and reach the SDGs by 2030 business need to be transparent, assessing and recognising where they can have an impact – not only a positive one, but also where there is a potential for them to have an adverse impact. Acknowledging the good, and the bad, along with a plan of action to transform business using the SDGs as roadmap. 

It is important for businesses to understand their contribution to the SDG goals as they report against them, but it isn’t enough to report positive progress around one or two SDGs, while ignoring negative impacts on another goal. Ultimately, solutions will only work if they are joined up. That’s why our approach to sustainability encompasses our entire value chain, going beyond our own operations and our customers. 

At Tetra Pak we’ve committed to support all of the 17 Goals, and in 2017, we spent eight months on a rigorous materiality assessment identifying and prioritising those aspects of our business where we could have the greatest economic, environmental and social impacts and/or could substantively influence stakeholder decisions. 

Sustainability has always been at the core of our promise to protect food, people and futures. That is to say, we are not new to this, and we’ve been looking at the science of environment for decades – but aligning to the SDG’s has enabled us to expand and evolve our approach. Recently, we published our 2018 Sustainability Report, marking 20 years of sustainability reporting. Over the years, our focus has shifted from an environmental commitment, to evaluating every part of our business and its impact.