22 Feb, 2023

SDGs and ESG: what’s the difference?

If leaders throughout your business were asked to define sustainability, how would they respond? Recent findings suggest that most people would say ‘green’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘renewable’.

Sustainability has become synonymous with environment, particularly for consumers. The problem is that sustainability was never intended to be a consumer word – and for organisations attempting to become more sustainable, this blurred definition overlooks what sustainability is at its core: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own.

For those in senior leadership positions, especially those tasked with ensuring their organisation meets its sustainability targets, it’s imperative to understand what sustainability means in order to develop robust strategies and bring about meaningful change with cultures that engage people in the why rather than just the how.

Whether your organisation is working towards sustainability targets or has yet to set them, it’s likely that your leaders and some colleagues are aware of sustainable development goals (SDGs) and environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG). But do they know the difference?

Sustainable development goals (SDGs)

In 2015, the United Nations provided a universal framework for sustainability and development, comprising 17 goals that set out to achieve environmental, economic and social inclusivity targets by 2030. They aim to end poverty; ensure good health and wellbeing; enable quality education; combat climate change; and reduce inequalities, among other objectives.

Banner with 17 icons, each representing one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)

ESG is a collection of standards used to measure an organisation’s performance in three areas across its operations and supply chain: it’s impact on the environment; it’s treatment of employees and stakeholders; and how transparent it is on governance matters such as pay, shareholder rights, audits, and leadership.

These factors determine how sustainable a business model is. Not only do they help companies to measure their sustainability KPIs but provide stakeholders with an insight into how sustainably a business is operating.

Unlike SDGs, which are more widely concerned with human rights and which the UN have set out to achieve by 2030, ESG is business-focused and aims to create long-term solutions.

How can we help?

At BB&A, we work closely with organisations across the world to embed cultures than enable sustainable working, whether that means engaging people in delivering environmental targets, enabling diversity and inclusion, or improving health and safety.

If you’re ready to make your ESG targets a reality, start a conversation with us, today.


Find out how BB&A can help your organistion