Co-creating the future: How collaboration is essential for sustainable development
On 15 September 2015, countries around the world committed to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity for all. This was the foundation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); 17 global goals comprising 169 targets to be achieved by 2030.
Though this was agreed by all the world’s leaders, it is clear that the responsibility for delivering the commitment belongs to everyone; and it’s a mission I take personally. As Chair of the Board of CSR Europe, I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director of the United Nations Global Compact at the annual European Business Summit in May 2017, setting out that the organisations will collaborate to share information, tools and resources, communicate with national delivery partners across Europe, organise learning events for member companies and partners, and act as one voice towards European policy makers.
Between now and 2030, economies will continue to grow and create prosperity, but with this comes the need for cleaner energy and smarter cities. Growth also means social issues become increasingly complex. How do you decarbonise, while ensuring secure supplies of heating and electricity? How can cities grow, but with less congestion? No one organisation has the solution to all of these problems. Multi-national companies that benefit from the world’s creativity and ingenuity are ideally placed to help achieve these ambitious goals.
I believe that in the future successful businesses will be those that embrace and lead the changes happening today and that work collaboratively with others to do so.
SDG 11 is about creating sustainable cities and communities that can cope with rising populations and still be inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. A possible solution is utilising the “Internet of Things”, but developing this approach will require skills and talents from a wide spectrum of organisations. One example of how this might work is autonomous vehicles. In cities, these would accelerate simultaneously at traffic lights, rather than sequentially as humans do, and re-route down quieter streets to maximise the use of road infrastructure, allowing traffic to move much more smoothly than it does today. This would require technology companies, vehicle manufacturers and city planners to work together. Likewise “mobility as a service” models will allow people to use a car only when they need it, reducing the space needed for parked cars in cities.
Today, Hitachi is using its business to help achieve the SDGs. Our trains, for example, use lighter aluminium bodies which reduce air resistance and so promote carbon emission reductions, supporting SDG 13 on climate action. We also provide an on-time, safe and comfortable railway traffic control system which helps promote sustainable cities and communities. Alongside The University of Sunderland and Gestamp Tallent, Hitachi Rail Europe founded the University Technical College in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, to cater for an estimated 600 students a year, studying advanced manufacturing and engineering. Furthermore, Hitachi Rail Europe offers factory tours for women twice a year to encourage more female engineering students and job applicants. These help us to achieve goals under the “quality education” (SDG 4) and “gender equality” (SDG 5) strands of the SDGs.
To enhance affordable and clean energy production (SDG 7), Hitachi has also developed a range of wind turbine generator systems that cover the 5mw, 2.5mw and 2mw classes, alongside infrastructure to handle everything from development to design, fabrication, sales and maintenance. This part of our business promotes clean energy, alongside supply facilities that introduce dispersed power to supply energy during times of disaster. On the providing “quality education” SDG, Hitachi has built a training centre where we provide lectures to create the next generation of wind energy engineers.
These are just some examples of what we are doing and how they align with the SDGs. However, ultimately, the SDGs are not about companies working in isolation. Complex problems often require complex solutions. Traditional approaches to business – solo, private innovation and simple, linear supply chains – cannot adequately address the challenges of today. So businesses are turning to collaboration, bringing new partners into their ecosystems that all benefit from working collectively towards a common goal. This ‘collaborative creation’ is a dynamic way not only to successfully navigate the new business conditions, but also to solve society’s biggest challenges.
So I call on companies and organisations, wherever you may be based – identify the difference you can make to the world, find others who share you ambitions, and work together to make it happen. This isn’t just about doing good, but also about leading the changes that are already underway.