Covid-19 timely reminder of key global UN goals

Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity. Seventeen goals provide a common framework and language for governments, business and civil society to work towards a balanced world socially, environmentally and economically. Who would have thought that this year would be a timely reminder of these global goals on poverty eradication, good health, clean water and sanitation, among others.

In January, business, political, academia and other global leaders came together at the World Economic Forum (WEF) event. Every year, the WEF publishes the Global Risks Report that highlights key risks the world will likely face.

There are five categories for these risks: economic, environmental, geopolitical, technological, and societal. This year’s report the global long-term risks in terms of impact for the next 10 years are biodiversity loss, climate failure, water crisis, human-made environmental disasters, extreme weather, weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters, food crises, infectious diseases, and cyber attacks.

Despite infectious diseases being a top risk, countries and companies did little to plan for it.

Business continuity planning has been around for decades, with organisations focusing on economic risks like credit and liquidity, among others as well as operational risks like systems and processes.


This year, the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that societal risks can and will rapidly impact our businesses, economies, and lives significantly.

Lessons and insights

These crises have forced businesses to adjust with speed. At Standard Chartered, for instance, we centred on three key realities — people and relationships, digital transformation, improved agility, and strengthening our business continuity plan.

People and relationships are key because safeguarding and protecting staff wellbeing is and must always remain the top priority for organisations going forward.

Digital life and economy was still somewhat a strategic conversation. But in prioritising people’s wellbeing, businesses have had to go digital. As things stand, the future remains digital.

The ability to quickly test new ideas and strategies is vital in this new volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous world, just as we can no longer deny the imperative for business to view their models through a health, social and environmental lenses.

Health, social and environmental risks must now be part of business risks, opportunities, and shape continuity plans, as they are now clearly business issues.

As a country, we are yet to realise the long-term impacts of Covid-19. But it is clearer now more than ever that the future of business relies on a healthy society and environment.

Companies need to tie business success to social and environmental wellbeing. It is now quite clear that the SDGs are no longer good-to-have but a must-have! It is the only way businesses will survive and more importantly, thrive.