At Ericson, each executive leadership team member is a champion of one of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Ericsson assigns each of their executive leadership team members to be the champion of one of the SDGs and ensure they carry forward opportunities to engage on that SDG.
Companies seeking to engage with the SDGs often pick one or two with obvious ties to their business, or simply stick to the headline grabbing issues. Who, after all, wouldn’t want to be known for sending kids to school or vaccinating babies? While this produces very good work in some areas, it can also mean certain SDGs end up “orphaned”. A 2015 survey by PwC found just 1% of companies were planning to assess their impact on all 17 goals.1 But this of course depends on the nature of the business sector or industry. If you are in the health field, SDG3 is obvious. Utilities? SDG7 Affordable & Clean Energy. But if you are in Information and Communications Technology (ICT), the possibilities to impact the goals are great.
Ericsson, a world leader in communications technology and services has taken a bold approach. The company includes society as one of its main stakeholder groups, along with the traditional customer, employee and shareholder, and uses the SDG framework to assess positive impacts made on society.2 To raise awareness both internally and externally about the role that Information and Communications Technology can play in underpinning the achievement of all of the goals, it has assigned an ambassador from the executive leadership team to each SDG, making that person a visible champion for encouraging innovation and action in his or her specific area. The Chief Legal Officer, for example, is in charge of SDG16 Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions, and promoting peaceful societies and access to justice.3 One example of how she does this is by convening a global peer legal network on these issues.4 The Chief Sustainability Officer is driving SDG4 Quality Education, very much tied to the company’s program Connect To Learn which is using mobility, broadband and cloud solutions to enable access to quality education for girls in emerging markets.5 The Chief Technology Officer looks for ways to foster resilient infrastructure, sustainable industrialisation and innovation in the development of the 5G portfolio (SDG 9 Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure) as well as the Chief Innovation Officer focused on SDG 1 No Poverty and the development of mobile financial services aimed at increasing financial inclusion nationwide.6 Recent examples from Peru where the ambition is to bank 2.1 million underserved Peruvians who currently lack access to bank accounts in partnership with the Peruvian banking association ASBANC.7 But also a recent initiative with Vodafone M-PESA, on a joint solution that will eventually enable access to clean water for 11 million Kenyans (SDG6 Clean Water & Sanitation).8
Ericsson says its approach to the SDGs is helping to embed sustainability and awareness of responsible business practices at all levels of the company.9 By tying these challenges directly to executive responsibility, the operator has entwined the SDG framework with day-to-day priorities, a move it says is helping it seize new market opportunities and align profit with public good.
1 PwC. (2015) “Make it your business: Engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals”. https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/sustainability/SDG/SDG%20Research_FINAL.pdf.
2 Ericsson. “Engaging with stakeholders”. https://www.ericsson.com/about-us/sustainability-and-corporate-responsibility/our-approach/engaging-with-stakeholders
3 Ericsson. (2015) “Technology for good: Ericsson Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility Report 2015”. https://www.ericsson.com/assets/local/about-ericsson/sustainability-and-corporate-responsibility/documents/2015-corporate-responsibility-and-sustainability-report.pdf.