SMEs and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“By designating 27 June as the annual Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Day, the UN General Assembly has recognized the importance of these enterprises in achieving the SDGs – especially by promoting innovation, creativity and decent work for all (SDG 8)…”[1]

SMEs’ roles matter in achieving the 2030 Agenda because they constitute about 90% of all business and play an important role in employment initiatives. The United Nations Commission on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) noted that funding the SDGs will total US$5-7 trillion from 2015-2030, and “only a relatively small part of that money will come from public funds.”[2] Therefore, it is vital that the capital from SMEs is leveraged to enable the realization of the SDGs.  For instance, SMEs can allocate capital to environmental and social impact investments in renewable energy or inclusive finance initiatives. While coordinating at the local level, SMEs should align their vision and strategy with responsible business guidelines, use the SDGs to analyze and measure their impact, and use the SDGs to influence the design of products as well as to attain new business partners that tackle the challenges facing society today.[3]

Engaging with the SDGs can contribute to SMEs improving long-term returns and redefining Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) with governments and organizations.  Additional benefits for SMEs in aligning their sustainability strategies with the SDGs include:

  • The realization that progressing towards sustainable business norms and products presents investment possibilities and meets sustainability demand
  • Improving the quality of the environment and mitigating climate change impacts
  • An opportunity to increase profits because consumers desire to purchase items from socially responsible enterprises
  • The recognition that measuring environmental and social performance with the SDGs can enhance employee, investor, and customer satisfaction with their business model.

Source: Calvert

SMEs can also showcase their sustainability initiatives associated with the SDGs through the following:

In essence, aligning SMEs’ sustainability strategies with the SDGs represent a productive first step in a multi-dimensional framework that will only continue to grow in the coming years as more advocacy focuses on the role of SMEs in attaining the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.


[1] ‘World’s most powerful job creators,’ small enterprises vital to achieving Global Goals – UN official

[2] Principles for Responsible Investment.  Aligning Responsible Investment With the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

[3] Small Business Big Impact Report

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