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Survey: How relevant are the Sustainable Development Goals for DNV GL and our people?

It has been a big year for global sustainability. In September we saw the United Nations’ adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Many of the SDGs, such as Goal 6: Clean water and sanitation, Goal 7: Affordable and clean energy, Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities, and especially Goal 13: Climate Action, are relevant to the COP21 climate discussions underway this week in Paris.

In a recent survey across DNV GL business areas and regions, we find that the majority of the 200 respondents think the SDGs are relevant for their everyday work and for DNV GL, and that DNV GL should engage actively in the fulfilment of the SDGs.

The new Sustainable Development Goals offer a practical framework for business to contribute to societal needs.

The new Sustainable Development Goals offer a practical framework for business to contribute to societal needs.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals and more than 100 targets reflecting the aspirations for sustainable development of the global community. These aspirations encompass issues such as ending hunger, achieving healthy lives and access to sustainable energy for all, achieving sustainable consumption, and preventing dangerous climate change. It is expected that all societal stakeholders, including business, would contribute to the materialisation of these aspirations. In November this year, DNV GL Strategic Research & Innovation distributed a survey to 2000 colleagues to examine what the SDGs mean to them – are these goals relevant for their everyday work and for the company? What do they mean for DNV GL’s own vision to have a global impact for a safe and sustainable future?

203 staff across all business areas and geographical regions responded to the survey (10% response rate). While only 38% of the respondents knew about the SDGs before receiving the survey, the responses suggest that the survey has encouraged others to look into the SDGs and reflect on how the goals relate to their work and the company. A caveat is that out of the 2000 survey recipients, those familiar with and also sympathetic to the SDGs are the ones likely to respond to the survey. The results are therefore likely overly positive, but they give important insights.

The DNV GL Sustainable Development Goals survey shows:

59% of the respondents consider the SDGs to be relevant for their everyday work
Notably, nearly half of the respondents that had not heard about the SDGs respond that the goals are relevant for their everyday work. When asked why the SDGs are relevant, many respondents mention the alignment of the goals with DNV GL’s purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment, and our vision of global impact for a safe and sustainable future.  Others explicitly mention the link between a particular goal and their business area (for example, SDG 7 on access to sustainable energy and Business Area Energy). As one respondent writes, “I chose to work in wind as sustainability is very important to me personally. Working for a company which is prepared to make tough decisions for the sake of sustainability motivates me to come to work and perform well.” Some respondents also raise the link between several of the SDGs and DNV GL’s work related to resource efficiency.

Figure 1: This word cloud shows the most frequent terms used in open ended responses to the question “Why are the SDGs relevant to your work?”

Figure 1: This word cloud shows the most frequent terms used in open ended responses to the question “Why are the SDGs relevant to your work?”

Only 17% of the respondents think customers are aware of the SDGs
The survey shows that very few respondents think the SDGs are a familiar issue for our customers. We do not have sufficient information to draw robust conclusions, but it is very likely that the SDGs are not per se the subject of discussions or services provided by DNV GL. However, 47% respond favourably to the question on whether they think the SDGs are relevant for customers.

92% of the respondents think the SDGs are relevant for DNV GL as a company
The most common reason mentioned by the respondents for why the SDGs are relevant for the company is the alignment with DNV GL’s purpose and vision. For example, “Our vision, values and strategy can be closely linked to several of the SDGs. We are a company that want to work in the same direction as the SDGs and want to be part of the change.”  Another reason raised by several respondents is business opportunities related to the goals, for example opportunities related to water and life sciences. Some respondents also write that it is important for an organisation like DNV GL to lead by example and “practice what we preach”.

91% of the respondents think DNV GL should actively engage in the fulfilment of the SDGs.
When asked how the company should engage in the fulfilment of the SDGs, respondents highlight issues such as continuing to work on projects for our clients that are related to the goals; expanding into new industries that are relevant to the SDGs; raising awareness of the SDGs in the industries we work in; and engaging in monitoring the progress of the SDG. Notably, a few of the respondents also explicitly mention the importance of working towards gender equality in DNV GL.

In short, these results, even if not representative of the whole staff of DNV GL, indicate that the commitment to DNV GL’s vision and purpose also translates into a commitment to contribute to a world that is on track to achieve sustainability in an equitable manner. Clearly, those familiar or sympathetic to the Sustainable Development Goals are the majority of the respondents and these results are likely overly positive. The key question for us is how maintaining our vision and purpose may require thinking anew on how sustainable development concerns may be used to guide DNV GL towards new services and new business opportunities.

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