The UN Sustainable Development Goals – 17 Goals to support global good health and well-being, eradicate poverty and attain gender equality and environmental sustainability – are aspirational yet actionable for governments, the private sector and civil society. These 17 goals and the 169 targets underneath them are one of the most influential evolutions of the sustainability conversation in the last few years with a comprehensive global roadmap toward a more sustainable world. Leading companies are aligning their corporate strategies with the SDGs because of their simple clarity and comprehensiveness. The SDGs bring new focus on the fact that addressing the injustices, environmental degradation, and disparities in the world today requires collaboration. Therein lies the power of the last, and truly not least of the SDGs - # 17, Partnership for the Goals.
UL is proud to count itself among the organizations that have embraced this SDG in our work in a number of ways, which we are excited to share with readers through a series of articles over the next several weeks covering our membership in the CE100, our participation in other collaborative research and demonstration projects, our sponsorship of GreenBiz’s inaugural circularity-themed conference in June 2019 called Circularity19, and our work directly with partners across the circularity value chain.
About SDG 17
SDG 17 speaks directly to the need for public-private and civil society partnerships and cross-industry collaboration to achieve sustainability objectives. Its targets are organized into five themes – finance, technology, capacity building, trade, and systemic issues. Many of the targets address geopolitical issues and international financing schemes that are the chief domain of specific actors, but two of the targets are accessible to all who wish to engage in the SDGs:
- Target 17.16 - Enhance the global partnership for sustainable development, complemented by multi-stakeholder partnerships that mobilize and share knowledge, expertise, technology and financial resources, to support the achievement of the sustainable development goals in all countries, in particular developing countries; and,
- Target 17.17 - Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships.
Hovering behind these targets are initiatives that will make them real and help the businesses that engage with them build resilience in the face of market changes – investment in innovations and new business models to name just two. As an enabler of market access for the companies we serve, UL sees our role related to SDG 17 as helping companies operationalize their innovations and business models in ways that create measurable beneficial outcomes for all.
Engaging to achieve the goal
The CE100 network, established and facilitated by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, hosts acceleration workshops, collaborative projects (co.projects) an annual summit, and learning resources all designed to engage members in proactive and impactful collaborative and pre-competitive activities to create more circular economies. A circular economy has been described as “an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them [while] in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.” It is a concept that is increasingly important to corporate sustainability strategies today, built on an understanding that economic growth disentangled from resource constraints is possible through innovation and collaboration. With the potential cost savings available from circularity-related innovations estimated at $700 billion a year, leading companies looking to future proof their business models are keen to tap into this promise. In fact, according to a recent Newsweek study, 95 percent of executives surveyed see the transition to a circular economy as positive to their organizations, citing access to new markets, improved competitiveness, enhanced image and higher revenue as benefits.
UL became a member of the CE100 in March 2019, a step we decided to take in part based on our experience with an existing co.project related to measuring recycled content – an initiative we expect to say more about in May. We are looking forward to finding additional ways we can collaborate strategically with industry leaders to help everyone achieve their business goals while we make a valuable contribution to the movement toward circularity.
UL is also proud to be a sponsor of Circularity19 – promoted by GreenBiz as the largest circular economy event in North America, and where the Ellen MacArthur Foundation CE100 will convene again to continue its important work. We agree with the GreenBiz team that circularity is a radically different way of doing business. We think that getting to circularity can be built on some tried and true product design decisions around product life extension, refurbishment, and integration of recycled content, for instance. Circularity is the application of innovation – something that business excels at – with the lens of sustainability in the context of the recognition that to tackle the big issues that are affecting us all, we need to work together.
We hope that you will join us on this journey toward more circular economies and sustainable world at these events:
Join us at the Bloomberg Sustainability Summit in Seattle, WA, by registering here: https://www.bna.com/2019-sustainable-business-summit-seattle/
If you plan to be at Circularity19 in June in Minneapolis, MN, please let us know, as we would love to chat and learn more about your circularity efforts. If want to register for this event, please use this code C19SR20 to register http://bit.ly/2EFz3fq. Space is limited, so act now.
What else can you do? Download a Newsweek study on circularity in business today to learn more about what business leaders are thinking and doing in this important space. https://news.ul.com/news/newsweek-study-circularity-business-shows-circularity-has-come-age
And, if you cannot join us at these events, or you have already downloaded this report, please look here for more information about where we will be and what UL is doing to help you, our customers, operationalize circularity and sustainability in your own operations.
 WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme), [Online]. Available: http://www.wrap.org.uk/about-us/about/wrap-and-circular-economy. [Accessed 24 August 2018].
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “Towards the Circular Economy, Vol 3: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains,” [Online]. Available: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications/towards-the-circular-economy-vol-3-accelerating-the-scale-up-across-global-supply-chains. [Accessed 3 June 2018].
 Newsweek Vantage, “Going Circular: How Global Business is Embracing the Circular Economy,” [Online]. Available : https://news.ul.com/news/newsweek-study-circularity-business-shows-circularity-has-come-age. [Accessed 19 Jan 2019].