The SDG Accelerator programme supports small- to medium-sized Danish companies in creating new solutions to positively impact the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

SDG Accelerator is the brainchild of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Stine Kirstein Junge. Inspired by maturity assessment tools developed by the UNDP’s Global Private Sector Team, Stine wanted to bring something similar to the Nordics, while also incorporating the SDGs. Funded by The Danish Industry Foundation, the two-year SDG Accelerator programme pilot kicked off in the spring of 2018.

Investing in the future
Why target small- to medium-sized companies? In Denmark, smaller companies make up approximately 80-90 percent of businesses, meaning this is where the focus should be for fast, high-volume impact. Larger companies have already recognized the market opportunities presented by the SDGs – and acted on them.

Stine explains that these smaller companies will grow into the large companies of the future and by investing in sustainability activities now, they will be well-positioned to attract purpose-driven talent (millennials). Furthermore, small and medium companies are very agile, adding a layer of flexibility and boldness to the mix. “Working with these companies is such a thrill. We have visionary CEOs and teams that bring a wealth of ideas with them.”

Sustainability is more than marketing
In terms of the branding opportunities presented by the SDGs, authenticity goes a long way. ‘SDG-washing’ is not unfamiliar to the UNDP, where brands claim to be positively impacting the SDGs but don’t truly make an impact. “We are aware and acknowledge that working with sustainability is a branding opportunity. The real impact lies in innovation and doing it to inspire others. It means going the extra mile instead of just ticking SDG boxes.”

Participants in the program are encouraged to measure the real impact of sustainability, which involves complex business planning and forecasting. It’s not just about the talk, it’s about walking the walk.

And if you are actually walking the walk – tell everyone about it. This is where storytelling comes in. Storytelling can go a long way to capturing hearts and minds. It humanizes you as a company, forms meaningful connections and positions you as a forward-thinking brand. In a world where we are constantly drip-fed information, a captivating sustainability story is sure to inspire.

A proud moment
For Stine, it all started with an idea. Now she hopes the program will be adopted in other Nordic countries and throughout the rest of the world. There’s a long way to go but what’s most exciting for her is seeing the progress. She is extremely proud: “These companies are so bold! Brave, visionary and bold.”

And it’s by telling their sustainability stories that the companies participating in the SDG Accelerator programme will help achieve its core purpose: To innovate and inspire others.