SDG Talk Blog by Gemeente Maastricht

2022-09-12

Last Tuesday we kicked off the SDG-traineeship with our first SDG-talk. At this meeting we first discussed the practical aspects of our upcoming traineeship, who are involved, what to expect in these coming four months, and other practical aspects that were important to know. After this short practical session, we segwayed into the main topic of discussion for the evening. The current direction that companies have adopted, the VUCA-way, is outdated. To develop a sustainable future, SDG’s are necessary to implement.

The main speaker of the evening was Rob van Tulder, Professor of International Business-Society Management at Erasmus University, who introduced us to the urgency and importance of the sustainable development goals. Rob has been at the forefront of sustainability and its relationship to businesses, and is also active in several sustainability initiatives. His publications form the basis of sustainable business curriculum, both nationally and abroad.

Some interesting points raised during the talk were that policymakers and companies embrace the SDG’s but not have taken a lot of action to accomplish the goals. Therefore, the trainees can make a significant impact on those companies. Furthermore, companies are in a ‘race to the bottom’ with their current mindset of conducting business, however with the SDG’s a race to the top can be initiated, and a strategic advantage can be obtained.

An additional interesting point was the importance of thinking from a ‘positive purpose’ framework. Highlighting how having a more positive agenda (such as the SDG’s) can contribute to the willingness of companies and people to act upon these goals. It sparks opportunities rather than the idea that we should embrace everything from a negative scenario where we are already ‘doomed to fail.’ Positivity, especially when it comes to SDGs and climate change is often frowned upon for being too idealistic. Rob emphasized, however, that positivity, especially in times of our current climate crisis, is not naive, it is leadership. This concept was a hopeful and powerful message that emphasizes that a positive attitude reaches more people than doom scenarios will.

We think that the most important lesson learned is that there are a lot of opportunities when it comes to creating policy with the SDG’s. Due to all the alarming reports and natural disasters it is hard to stay optimistic and keep fighting for a better world. However, the SDG’s are positive goals that motivate us to develop a better world for all humankind. With this lesson learned, we can start to work on our projects with high motivation to seize the opportunities that lie ahead of us in the projects we are working on.

The SDG’s are an integrated set of goals that offers companies, NGO’s and public organizations a direction for a more sustainable world. Our team has to analyze the “Omgevingsvisie” of 2040 and therefore these goals can help us as a guidance to incorporate the goals. The SDG-talk clarified as well that most managers know that it is important to achieve the SDG’s, however the translation into practice is often difficult. With this insight we will not critiize the Municipality of Maastricht for not already incorporating the SDG’s in the “Omgevingsvisie” 2040. Instead we will support them in achieving the sustainability goals in the best possible way!

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