Steve Kenzie, Executive Director of UNGC Network UK discussed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) andhow businesses implement them. Our most regular networker, Issi Rousseva, explained that she was shown some great examples of companies already implementing them successfully. Following this, attendees heard from Mark Fisher, Senior Teaching Fellow at the University of Sussex, also a Chartered Accountant who explained the benefits of creating social enterprises over charities. One of the most successful social enterprises that was referred to, was INTCAS (INTelligent Communities around Students), we heard from the Managing Director, Zakaria Mahmoud, who affirmed there was a market of investors interested in investing in socially responsible businesses. However, the key was to form your business plan around a longer term strategy instead of the standard 5-year-plan.

Shelaine Siepel discussed the work that the Sustainable Business Partnership is doing with local businesses to improve their environmental credentials; they help businesses and social enterprises to save money through energy, waste and water efficiency. Interestingly, she noted that even with a predicted cost saving for businesses, many companies still resisted to implement changes to their existing way of working, which seemed to be an issue across the board.

Can government policy have a bigger impact? The panel and audience discussed this or whether achieving these global goals should be a ‘bottom-up’ process. It seemed to be an industry specific answer; it was agreed that certain industries such as the construction industry were hugely affected by government policy and incentives, for example, cutting the feed-in tariff has greatly reduced the amount of renewable energy products on the market.

Developers are also affected by government guidelines on energy efficiency targets, very often driven by profit margins, policy fed through to planning has a huge impact on developers uptake of sustainable, green targets being met on developments. Issi explained how the panel and audience came to a collective agreement in which smaller industries were more likely to be impacted by a bottom-up approach and the decisions of individual businesses without having to reply on government policy to drive their progress towards meetings SDGs.