The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) recently hosted a forum to discuss how Quality Infrastructure can play a critical role in the delivery and implementation of the United Nation’s (UN) 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Quality Infrastructure is the collective term for Standardization, Testing and Measurement, Certification and Accreditation.
The SDGs, to which 193 governments around the world have signed up, form the backbone of the UN’s 2030 Agenda which is aimed at increasing economic prosperity and social well-being on a global level.
Speaking in his capacity as chair of the ISO Technical Committee for occupational health and safety management (ISO/TC283), Group Technical Assurance and Quality Director at LRQA, Martin Cottam was one of five presenters at the meeting representing standardization. In his presentation he emphasised the extent to which standards help ensure the health and safety of workplaces, the physical conditions in the working environment, and the safe design of plant and equipment, contributing to the fulfilment of SDGs 3 (Good Health & Wellbeing) and 8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth).
Martin said: “While the SDGs are addressed to countries and governments, there is a significant amount that businesses can do at a company level to support the achievement of the SDGs, by using environmental management and health and safety management standards to help improve performance. It’s a definite win-win; if more businesses around the world adopted these standards, it would both show support for this important UN initiative and would help the individual companies deliver improved performance and strengthen their bottom line. It’s the right thing to do from a business perspective and in terms of our social responsibilities as citizens.”
What is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
The UN states that: ‘The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. At its heart are the 17 SDGs, which are an urgent call for action by all countries - developed and developing - in a global partnership. They recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.’
The role of standards
Environmental management standard ISO 14001 and occupational health and safety management standard ISO 45001 relate to many of the SDGs including helping drive a commitment to clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; developing industry, innovation and infrastructure and reducing environmental impact.
ISO 14001 is an internationally agreed standard that sets out the requirements for an environmental management system. It helps organisations improve their environmental performance through more efficient use of resources and reduction of waste, gaining a competitive advantage and the trust of stakeholders. ISO 14001 environmental standard is directly linked to no less than eight of the 17 SDGs and indirectly to a further four, dependent on the organization:
Health and safety in the workplace are the number one concern of most businesses, yet still deaths and injuries occur. Developed by a committee of health and safety experts, ISO 45001 sets out the essential elements of a management system for occupational health and safety management system, to protect employees and provide safe and healthy workplaces, and is linked directly to SDGs 3 and 8.