We are currently working with a funder who is evaluating their corporate foundation against two sets of benchmarks: the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their own corporate values. This blog post explore’s how funders can integrate the SDGs into their evaluation and funding decision matrix as part of their overall giving strategy.

The first question one might ask is, “Why two sets of evaluation criteria?” When it comes to corporate giving, companies have multiple stakeholders to report to, some of whom have conflicting expectations. For Shareholders it is about increasing shareholder value and for customers it is about quality of service. For employees it is about quality of workplace and for vendors, it is about relationshUN Sustainable Development Goals logoips and financial metrics. At the heart of all of this is the community in which the corporation operates and where it draws its resources (human, intellectual, financial, social) from. So having two sets of social evaluation benchmarks allows the Funder to take into account the expectations of their key stakeholders as well as the larger expectations of operating in a global economy.

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

The seventeen Sustainable Development Goals were established by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 2016, “…otherwise known as the Global Goals, they are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the environment and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.” Expanding on the Millenium Development Goals, the SDGs added a few new categories including, climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice.

Integrating the SDG’s into private philanthropy can seem daunting. The sheer magnitude of the complex problems that these goals were set out to tackle may seem like an impossibility for private philanthropy. It is for this reason that we look at the SDG’s as a guiding star for private philanthropy planning.

Using the SDG’s in Private Philanthropy

Because of the complexities of the issues that the SDGs are trying to solve we know that the answers are not found in a single-source solution, rather it will take a layered approach. Recognizing that the responsibility doesn’t fall on a single philanthropist or a single solution frees up the space for entering into curiosity conversations and collaborations with strange bedfellows.

Philanthropy 3.0 espouses that by leveraging the 4 T’s private philanthropists can move the needle on these complex social problems. The 4 T’s are – Time, Talent, Treasures, and Ties. For some, this social capital comes from their own small and medium sized businesses. In this case, SMEs are uniquely positioned because of their ability to connect at a local level to expertise (Ties), be nimble enough to tap into innovative thinking and design (Talent), and have a variety of financial resources (grants and company revenue) to take their solution to market.

For others private philanthropy comes from family foundations and annual giving. In this case the 4 T’s still apply, the only difference are the types of resources that are available.

SDG Goal 8 on burgundy backgroundThe SDG’s can be used as a way to identify the critical social issue you want to manage. For example, as a business owner you might look at your own employment standards as a jumping off point. Picking something that is relevant to you, can be actioned and measured and resonates with your employees and customers is a great place to start. An example is: SDG #8 – Promoting sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

Examples of targets that you can strive towards range from ensuring safe workplaces for all employees including temporary or migrant workers to “creating productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”

In this example, the SDG is more about understanding how minimum wage and minimum guaranteed incomes work in your community and what you as a business owner can do to move your business towards meeting this SDG objective.

A tool that we have found useful in exploring how your company can integrate the SDGs is the SDG Indicator Wizard.

Whether you are using the SDG as a guiding star, or as directed measurement for your corporate social responsibility program or private philanthropy, at the end of the day it is about measuring the impact that you are having on the issues that resonate with you, your family, your employees and your customers.