When talking SDGs we need to stop focusing on win-wins. Instead of cherry-picking, let’s talk trade-offs and challenges, says Katherine Richardson, due to report on SDG-development to UN and heading a workshop at Responsible Pharma 30 November.
Few issues initiated by the UN have travelled with the same speed and effectiveness as the Sustainable Developments Goals. The basic message of a need to transform our world towards a sustainable future has taken hold in populations, media, NGOs, regions, municipalities, cities, parliaments, and also board rooms.
Most parts of the corporate sector are responding to the call with something akin to enthusiasm; a wonderful experience, says professor Katherine Richardson of the University of Copenhagen – a member of the 15-strong Independent Group of Scientists (ISG) tasked to deliver the Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR) to the UN General Assembly. “We have a real and monumental challenge ahead of us, but so far the overall support has been impressive. But we need to realise, that we haven’t even begun the real battle,” she says.
A special challenge Katherine Richardson points to, is cherry-picking. If it still only applied to fruit on a tree, she would be all for it, but when used by states or companies to “choose” their own SDGs and ignore the troublesome ones, it can become part of the problem rather than the solution. The reason is simple – the 17 SDGs are simply so inter-connected, that any win-win can be a fallacy or at least a trade-off.
“If you only choose to show your most positive sides, you know you are not showing your true self – which may be fine in dating, but with the SDGs it can lead to win-wins, that are actually bad solutions. We simply need to also talk and focus on our trade-offs, and on not only our pretty side, but also on the problems we still cause, the issues we haven’t solved, or the challenges we produce,” says Katherine Richardson.
Every company, organisation, or country are more than welcome to contribute ideas and knowledge to the ISG to help them create the GSDR – this can be done online here; https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/globalsdreport/2019
On November 30th, Katherine Richardson and her colleague Steffen Loft, a fellow member of the Sustainability Science Centre at the University of Copenhagen will also lead a workshop as part of the Responsible Pharma conference in the Maersk Tower in Copenhagen. The idea is to discuss the overall development towards sustainability, and gather good examples – but also to underline the need for a holistic approach towards sustainability.
“Naturally no single one can solve everything. But it is also vital to realise, that in an integrated world we need to address the trade-offs – we cannot only talk about our positive stories. Not least because solving all the remaining problems can only be done, by knowledge sharing – that by recognising the challenges we face, we increase our hope of dealing with them,” she adds.
The Sustainability Science Centre joins the Medicon Valley Alliance and the Novo Nordisk Foundation in hosting the conference, arranged by CSR LINK, that also has speakers from LEO Pharma, Novartis, Ferring, Skandia, and European Health Futures Forum – read more.