Sustainable Business Can Unlock $12 Trillion, Study Finds

Sustainable business models that support the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals could create economic opportunities worth up to $12 trillion by 2030, a report from the Business & Sustainable Development Commission finds.

According to the report, Better Business, Better World (HTML or 122 pages, PDF), achieving the seventeen goals —  eliminating poverty, improving education and health outcomes, creating better jobs, and tackling environmental challenges by 2030 — would open up $12 trillion in market opportunities and create up to three hundred and eighty million jobs in four sectors: food and agriculture ($2.3 trillion), cities ($3.7 trillion), energy and materials ($4.3 trillion), and health and well-being ($1.8 trillion). By aligning business strategy and market transformation with the SDGs, the report argues, businesses also could drive innovation, realize significant efficiency gains, and benefit from enhanced reputations as companies that care about sustainability.

To that end, the study identifies sixty sustainable and inclusive market opportunities in the four sectors, including reducing food waste, supporting micro-irrigation technology, increasing the supply of affordable housing, building resilient cities, advancing carbon capture and storage, improving industry energy efficiency, enhancing disease management, and expanding telehealth services. The report calls on business leaders to build support for and incorporate the SDGs into their company strategies, collaborate with peers in their sectors to drive transformation, work with policy makers to ensure that paying living wages will not put them at a cost disadvantage, push for a financial system oriented toward long-term sustainable investment, and rebuild the social contract.

Launched in January 2016, the commission comprises leaders from the public, private, and civil society sectors. Its funders include the Bill & Melinda Gates and United Nations foundations; the Overseas Development Institute, the Global Green Growth Forum, Unilever, WBCSD, and the governments of Australia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

"At a time when our economic model is pushing the limits of our planetary boundaries and condemning many to a future without hope, the Sustainable Development Goals offer us a way out," said Unilever CEO Paul Polman, a commission member. "Many are now realizing the enormous opportunities that exist for enlightened businesses willing to stand up and address these urgent challenges. But every day that passes is another lost opportunity for action. We must react quickly, decisively, and collectively to ensure a fairer and more prosperous world for all."

"Sustainable Business Can Unlock at Least US$12 Trillion in New Market Value, and Repair Economic System." Business & Sustainable Development Commission Press Release 01/16/2017.