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Role of Quality Infrastructure in helping companies achieve the SDGs

Blog on Sustainability

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.

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:

  • Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty declined by more than half, falling from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 836 million in 2015. Most progress occurred since 2000.
  • The primary school net enrolment rate in the developing regions reached 91 per cent in 2015, up from 83 per cent in 2000.
  • The global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half. Similarly, since 1990, the maternal mortality ratio declined by 45 per cent worldwide.
  • New HIV infections fell by approximately 40 per cent between 2000 and 2013, while over 6.2 million malaria deaths were averted between 2000 and 2015.
  • In 2015, 91 per cent of the global population used an improved drinking water source, compared to 76 per cent in 1990.

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.

Collective Action

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.”

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 and in a manner that avoids unsustainable exploitation of the biosphere.

In the six years since the SDGs were 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 on their efforts towards meeting their SDG commitments.

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 increasingly making it mandatory for 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 their work on the ground.

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 industrialization and foster innovation.” 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 standardized 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 and support infrastructure and improve energy efficiency, including buildings, industrial plants, vehicles, appliances, among others. They also aid innovation by disseminating 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 manufacturers claims.

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.

Know how we can support in your journey towards Sustainability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Mr. Niranjan Nadkarni, CEO - ASEAN, South Asia, Middle East & Africa Region, TÜV SÜD.

Click here to read more articles by Mr. Niranjan Nadkarni. 

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