Make sustainable goals your second language

4 months ago | Features

  • Made in Britain CEO John Pearce on the international understanding of sustainability

IF you’re marketing British-made products overseas, you don’t need me to tell you what an advantage it is to speak English. We’re lucky that people use our language across the world and it spares us the need to delve into a pocket phrase book or ‘swipe right’ on an app for that key word we need to start those sales conversations.
So how would you feel if I told you I think there’s another language that I think is far more useful and valuable than a shared understanding of English? It’s not really a language at all, in the traditional sense, it’s a set of shared values and targets – universally relevant themes to discuss, that will help with building trust and making friends.

This globally accepted and heavily promoted ‘means of communication’ is the set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), created and co-ordinated by the United Nations. These are 17 universally adopted environmental and social targets, agreed across 193 countries and serving as shared ambition to end hunger around the world by 2030. The goals are fast becoming a new, universal language, with a vivid, easy-to-recognise set of colour coded icons to illustrate the reporting targets. They act as a reminder of the highest possible ambition for human rights, egalitarian societies and environmental well-being.

Promoted around the world with high impact social media campaigns, the SDGs are fast becoming a kind of ‘Esperanto’ of shared values in topics that matter to absolutely everyone: education, ecology, law, business standards, equality, diversity and human rights - areas that all depend on national and international collaboration.
They’re also a really useful guide to connecting with people with whom you’d like to trade. Those individuals are guaranteed to know what they mean, and chances are they’ll have adopted some of them for their business sector too. Successful trade with other countries is primarily about strong, long-lasting relationships. The goals can help you break the ice, find common values and communicate your best practice in business all over the world.

It’s easy to adopt a simple six-step strategy for using the Sustainable Development Goals to improve your international links.

• Visit the UN website here.
• See how the goals are being promoted via Project Everyone.
• Talk to your colleagues about the global goals and ask which are a priority for them. Achieve a consensus everyone’s happy with. Selecting one goal to promote and another two to support is a good start.
• Include the chosen goal/s in your communications with new and current export customers.
• Set up a page on your website explaining how your business connects to your adopted SDGs.
• Ask your customers abroad if they know about the global goals and if they have adopted any of them.

Made in Britain’s primary adopted SDG is number 12, decided after speaking to our members at the Circular Economy Marketing workshop in November 2018. We know our members expect the very highest levels of compliance and business practice, and that’s reflected in the Made in Britain Code of Conduct.

Now the goals are very much in the public domain, they represent an opportunity for businesses to communicate with each other and express shared values. You can adopt one or two or three and use the icons in your PR and comms. It shows people that your business really takes responsibility and it helps your staff feel they are making a difference on the local, national and international stage.

No matter how basic your foreign language skills, until the goals are achieved (hopefully before 2030), we’ll always have something to talk to our customers about. Make the goals your second language for business, and trade overseas with people that share your beliefs on the highest business standards and respect for the planet’s resources.

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