What is Sustainable Development?

The most quoted definition of sustainable development is from the 1987 UN report Our Common Future: "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. There are three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, environmental and social – which are inextricably linked. Sustainable development is now particularly linked to the 2030 Agenda, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in September 2015, leading to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - 17 goals and 169 associated targets to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.

Why is Sustainable Development relevant to business?

Business has a key role to play in reaching the SDGs. It employs nine out of ten people globally, offering income opportunities, training and career pathways and thereby contributing to the elimination of poverty. The private sector drives economic growth and provides the necessary goods and services we all need in our daily life. It also applies creativity and innovation to help solve global sustainable development challenges. Policies and regulations, however, are not always conducive to promote the 2030 Agenda as they can create new, extensive bureaucratic burdens for the private sector. Companies are increasingly faced with a myriad of legislation, standards and frameworks, which are not always complementary and helpful.

What is the IOE’s position on Sustainable Development?

In its Bahrain Declaration, the global employer community reaffirmed its full support for the SDGs and its commitment to contribute to their realisation. Partnerships are key for reaching the SDGs. Companies, governments, and civil society can no longer afford to work in silos in this regard. Enabling framework conditions are of fundamental importance to harness the potential of these partnerships. Governments need to create the enabling environments both for business to create jobs, drive economic growth and development, and also the right collaborative frameworks for business, government and civil society to work productively together. It is also important to showcase what business is doing to implement the SDGs, in particular Goal 8 on economic growth and productive employment, as well as to highlight the challenges companies are facing. The aim is to monitor the sustainability agenda and strengthen an enabling environment for sustainable enterprises.

How does the IOE’s work on Sustainable Development advance the agenda for business?

The SDGs are a priority for the IOE. To this end, the IOE has established a Policy Working Group on Sustainable Development to facilitate the exchange of experience, establish partnerships and build capacity. The IOE is also a partner of the Business for 2030 portal, which aims to promote business engagement in the 2030 Agenda. The IOE focuses particularly on the impact of sustainable development policies and measures on employment and social conditions, and helps to ensure that policymakers hear, understand and take into account the business perspective. The IOE is raising awareness, ensuring that its members fully understand and, engage more effectively in contributing to the achievement of these ambitious goals. The IOE helps analyse the implications for enterprises, provides effective employer advocacy in international forums, and, above all, makes sure employers’ organisations are part of the accountability mechanism.