Technology and business can serve a greater good. But only if the greater good is what you seek.
Our job is to question and to help find explanations, question paths that seem set in stone, and explain what could be if we take advantage of the power of tech. By ‘our,’ we mean all of us—the entire Techonomy community.
For 2018 we are doubling down on a direction that has been part of our mission since we started—focusing on how technology can help move humanity forward. For a road map and an inspiration, we are turning to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030. The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, call for action by all countries—poor, rich and middle income—to promote prosperity for everyone while protecting the planet. They are, by any measure, hugely ambitious. They call for taking a global view in all things, and include eliminating poverty, hunger, and gender and economic inequality, as well as providing affordable and clean energy and quality education. More details about all 17 global goals can be found here.
We view them as a framework to help us keep a clear understanding about the areas where change can have the greatest impact, and as a massive challenge for our community.
Governments alone cannot meet the goals. Business is the key to accelerating the transformation. In fact, the 17th goal calls for partnerships, recognizing that only the combined efforts of government, NGOs, and business can drive sufficient progress. The question is: Does business have the appetite to take it on?
There is a strong case that progress towards the SDGs will create new markets, new economic models, vast new sources of talent, and huge global growth. But in an era of increasing distrust of institutions—and especially of big business—will companies really get serious about the SDGs? It would do an enormous amount for the image of business if they do.
There’s little doubt that the stunning potential of current and evolving technologies can have a significant impact on advancing the SDGs. But so far, business has been slow to take up the cause in any systematic way, especially in the United States. We want to understand why, and think together about ways to move things forward.
Throughout the year, Techonomy will explore the business case for action—and the challenges business faces in pursuing the potential $12 trillion in market opportunities and 380 million new jobs the SDGs can create. (Those figures come from the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, a high-powered body set up to support the goals and chaired by Unilever CEO Paul Polman.) As part of our own exploration, Techonomy will benchmark the business community’s awareness of the SDGs, its attitudes toward taking them on, and its actions. We intend to conduct a global survey of businesses that work in food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health. Progress in just these four segments can impact more than half of the SDG targets.
The Techonomy community is an advocate for the responsible and progressive use of technology to help people live fuller and richer lives. The SDGs dovetail with this mandate alongside the themes about attaining progress that we’ve been exploring since our founding in 2010. We invite you to join us online, in our print magazine, and at our events as we collectively apply our energy and creativity to inspire business leaders, and all of us, to take action.