Intro: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set ambitious goals. A key to achieving them is a system of Testing, Inspection, Certification, Auditing and Training.
Sustainability as a business strategy is gradually becoming the norm, enabling an organisation to continue innovating while simultaneously considering its impact on the environment. This strategy creates long-term benefits for the industry and the broader society. A sustainable business contributes to the structure it operates within, thus helping to create an environment in which the firm can thrive. Most firms take steps to make industrialisation more sustainable by following the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN.
The establishment of SDGs in the industrial mainstream has led to an increased the role of quality in sustainability in most global companies' industrial operations. Every SDG is interdependent and aims at identifying specific targets and attaining them, one of the most important in the industrial context being Goal 9, that is, SDG industry innovation and infrastructure. This goal aims to foster innovation by promoting sustainable industrialisation and building resilient infrastructure.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) outlined in 2000 laid out a broad vision to fight poverty in its many dimensions. That vision, which was translated into eight goals, remained the overarching development framework for the world for 15 years.
Sustained actions by governments saw some astonishing achievements on all fronts. Some of them, according to a 2015 UN report, were:
Remarkable though these achievements were, as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon noted, a lot still needed to be done. “Further progress will require an unswerving political will, and collective, long-term effort,” he said.
Towards this end, in 2015, all the world’s nations committed themselves to an even more ambitious developmental agenda – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were a collection of 17 interlinked global goals designed to be a "blueprint for achieving a better and more sustainable future for all.”, which outlined the process of defining the world we want and how to achieve sustainable development goals in the process.
Apart from taking forward the MDG agenda in a more holistic manner, the SDGs envisaged a far more critical role for the private sector. This was an acknowledgement that the scope and ambition of the 2030 Agenda were far beyond what international organizations and aid flows could achieve alone. Meeting SDGs needed collective effort by governments, the private sector and civil society.
The SDGs are based upon the interdependence of three themes – people, prosperity and planet. Economic development is the essential driver of prosperity. What the SDGs seek to do is to ensure that it meets people's societal needs in a manner that avoids unsustainable exploitation of the biosphere.
In the six years since the SDGs and the importance of sustainable development goals was enunciated, most prominent private companies have made explicit commitments to playing their part in meeting these goals. A 2019 survey by World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) found that among the 250 global companies surveyed, 82% had reported their efforts towards meeting their SDG commitments.
What are Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?
First announced in 2015, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are a set of 17 specific targets intended to contribute to a better, more sustainable future for all.
The UN has also presented its data on achieving sustainable development goals through various steps such as financing poverty eradication and taking action at all levels. Additionally, SDGs incorporate ways of improving global infrastructure and innovation sustainably. The objective of the infrastructure imperative in SDGs is to discover ways of building cities and sustainably managing landscapes.
Sustainability as a Business Strategy
The reasons for the growing private sector commitment to SDGs are not hard to discern. First and foremost is the regulatory pressure. Governments are gradually establishing a sustainable infrastructure imperative by increasingly requiring firms to disclose their commitment to SDGs, spending, and targets achieved.
The second is the moral pressure exerted by civil society groups, media, and investors. Today, companies must go beyond platitudes and showcase their commitment to sustainable development by through their work on the ground due to the infrastructure imperative in SDGs.
The third and perhaps most crucial factor is the realization in Board Rooms and C-Suite offices that being sustainable is good for business. A vast body of evidence demonstrates that companies can be more successful and more sustainable over the long term when they link to broader social, economic, or environmental goals.
It gives businesses the ability to better engage with all their stakeholders – talent, customers, partners, regulators, and investors. Such firms, studies show, also tend to outperform their competitors in the market.
The QI Imperative
A key element helping companies become more sustainable in their business practices is a robust Quality Infrastructure (QI). As a report by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) notes, QI systems with their building blocks of standardization, metrology, accreditation and conformity assessment, and in particular, testing, certification and inspection services, play a fundamental role in supporting this transformation. “QI can help consumers make informed choices, encourage innovation, lead businesses and industries to take up appropriate new technologies and organization methods improving current practices, and support public authorities in designing and implementing public policies aligned with the SDGs,” the report said.
Quality, which a robust QI fosters, is also in line with SDG 9, “Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialisation and foster innovation.”, while simultaneously putting the principles of the infrastructure imperative in SDGs into practice. The Covid-19 pandemic that has taken a devastating human and economic toll has also underscored the need for a QI to ensure that vaccines, medicines, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) pass standardised tests across the world.
In a globalized world, nations' economic prosperity is inextricably linked to their ability to manufacture and trade precisely made and tested products and components that are accepted by trading partners and meet destination market and consumer requirements. Manufacturers need to ensure that their products are of consistent quality, comply with relevant regulations and standards, and meet the necessary requirements and specifications. Quality imperative especially Auditing, Certification, Testing, Inspection, and training plays a pivotal role in this.
Critically, implementation of standards can also mitigate the negative environmental impact of production processes, support infrastructure and improve energy efficiency, including buildings, industrial plants, vehicles, and appliances, among others. They also aid in SDG industry innovation and infrastructure by disseminating the best practices.
Today tariff barriers are coming down, but non-tariff barriers to trade – especially those related to sustainability – are becoming more stringent. This is in tune with SDG 9 that refers to upgrading infrastructure and retrofitting industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and re-use and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies and industrial processes.
In such a scenario, calibration and test reports, inspection data and certification produced by an accredited conformity assessment provider give companies a vital competitive advantage while enhancing confidence among consumers, suppliers, purchasers, and regulators about manufacturer’s claims, thereby simultaneously contributing towards SDG industry innovation and infrastructure.
Little wonder then that getting their infrastructure as well as production processes tested, inspected and certified is on the top of most enlightened C-Suite executives’ agenda.
A key element helping companies become more sustainable in their business practices is a robust Quality Infrastructure (QI). Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015, provides the blueprint to navigate stakeholders and collectively move towards achieving a better and more sustainable world. Quality, which a robust QI fosters, is also in line with SDG 9, Build resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable industrialization and foster innovation. Auditing, Certification, Testing, Inspection, and Training services play a pivotal role in ensuring your products or services comply with relevant regulations and standards, are of consistent quality, and meet the necessary requirements and specifications. Giving companies a vital competitive advantage while enhancing confidence among consumers, suppliers, purchasers, and regulators about their claims.