Sustainable Development Goals as a tool for Global Change

Dr. Phoebe Koundouri
Co-chair: SDSN Europe

What is SDSN Europe working on, and how is it related to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals?

At SDSN Europe, our focus priorities are climate change adaptation, mitigation, circular economy, nature-based solutions, and all the solutions relevant to climate change and biodiversity loss. The second incubator is called a brigade connect. I'm a co-founder of this with 120 startups providing solutions for climate adaptation. Our clients are cities, communities, petty regions, national authorities, etc. We operate a lot with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. We investigate manually, conceptually, and machine learning approaches between the SDGs and the European Green Deal policies, laws, regulations, and directives. And we also move one step further. We believe it's important to expand our knowledge and leadership regarding SDGs implementation in the European Green Deal of Europe in the neighbouring areas.  

How do you think global partnership could accelerate that transition towards the development goals?

Global partnership is the most crucial goal because none of the SDGs can be achieved without cooperation at the local, regional, national, continental, and global levels. The objectives of this SDG should not have national boundaries; the goals are international, and only through international collaboration can they be achieved. And this is what we are doing in SDSN. And this is what we are doing in Europe. Europe is a leading example because it's the place where we have transposed already into laws and regulations and policies starting to be implemented in most of the SDGs. This is an example to be transferred to the rest of the world. We need to work with the local stakeholders, politicians, policymakers, financials, businesses, technology developers, scientists, NGOs, and civil society to transpose the leadership and Kampala in Europe into something sensible and applicable to other areas. 

What is needed to reach access to environmental sustainability within companies? 

What the government should develop are policies and regulations about financial institutions. It must also happen outside of Europe because, at the moment, we have the technology, we have the money, but we need to implement it accordingly. Implementation should happen through incentivising policies, regulations, and laws. We don't have time to wait; we need to move fast. That's why incentivising will not be enough. We need regulation. And I said we have the technology and we have the money. However, these are not distributed in a fair way across the world. So we need to be very careful in understanding that meeting the SDGs in Europe will not be enough. All the world is interconnected, and reaching them in one region will not be sufficient. 

How is the ESG framework different from the SDG framework? Which one should companies be giving priority to? 

The ESGs are about, you know, the environment. Environmental impact, social impact and governance. The SDGs are a much more holistic framework. If we focus on a holistic framework, SDGs go first because they encompass any interaction relevant to society, the economy and the environment. The ESG framework is somewhat less holistic as it is pretty rigid in its objectives. The SDGs give the companies ideas for doing more in sectors that are also visions for their profitability. This framework enables more transposition, synergies, and ideas for implementing the sustainability transition. They are inclusive, and we have explicit ways to measure, measure and measure them.