A Little Less Conversation, a Little More SDG Action

Download your own SDG Proposition Canvas to turn ideas into focused actions
A Little Less Conversation, a Little More SDG Action
Publ. date 25 Sep 2018
The largest call-to-action for sustainability ever was announced three years ago to the day, on September 25, 2015, when the leaders of 193 nations adopted an ambitious set of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change at the United Nations General Assembly. That day, the United Nations called for governments, businesses, NGOs and citizens around the world to join forces in achieving the 17 SDGs and its associated targets by 2030. But meeting those targets presented a conundrum of execution of unprecedented magnitude. Therefore focus is required to realize the ideas generated. As today is SDG Action Day, we share our free SDG Proposition Canvas and workshop instructions to turn your ideas into focused actions.


But I would like to quote the famous philosopher Elvis Presley. In one of his timeless hits he asked for “A little less conversation, a little more action.” 

- Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg on the Sustainable Development Goals


Applying the SDG Proposition Canvas

When a company considers the development of an SDG initiative but does not have the resources to conduct full-fledged detailed research on this, the need for a simple and straightforward SDG analysis arises. Applying the SDG Proposition Canvas in a workshop format is aimed at addressing exactly that need. The total workshop takes about two-and-a-half to three hours to conduct and can be organized with an audience of approximately 8 to 12 people, preferably with diverse backgrounds. Some participants can be external experts on specific topics such as for instance climate change, LCAs, packaging or water preservation.



To apply the canvas, make sure to start with the list of material sustainability topics for the firm. This is the time to reuse the previously constructed materiality matrix (if it exists, of course). If not, a solid brainstorming with the participants can set the proper base for the exercise. Next, ask the participants to each create up to five post-it note items containing the company’s most relevant strategic initiatives. Briefly discuss the initiatives and cluster them where applicable. As a last step in the preparation phase, determine in plenary the geographies best suited for the company to target the SDG initiatives as not all companies can address all topics globally.

Once the premises for the exercise have been laid out (materiality matrix + strategic initiatives + target geographies), the main feature of the workshop can commence. Participants are to conduct a brainstorm in pairs on potential sustainability initiatives, again with post-it notes. Once there is a decent number of initiatives displayed on the wall, have the participants explain their ideas, and again cluster them if necessary.

When the idea generation is completed, plot the proposed initiatives into the quadrants of potential societal and business impacts through plenary discussion and select jointly the most attractive initiatives; if needed through voting. Limiting the number of initiatives to a maximum of about 5 is recommendable as successful execution requires focus. Draw lines between the individual SDGs and the selected initiatives. Finally, as a sort of regression test, reconnect the initiatives to the company’s material sustainability topics, must-win battles and geographies.

The complimentary SDG Proposition Canvas is available in A0 poster format through the download in this article at the top of the page.

Of Vectoring and "Winning Sustainability Strategies" 

The SDG Proposition Canvas is sourced from Winning Sustainability Strategies (Palgrave 2018, Leleux and Van der Kaaij, forthcoming). Presenting numerous award-winning cases from IMD business school and examples from companies such as Unilever, Patagonia, Tumi, DSM and Umicore alongside original ideas based upon 20 years of consulting experience, this book reveals how to design and implement a stronger sense of focus and move sustainability programs forward. This proven combination of purpose, direction and speed is dubbed Vectoring.  

Based upon practitioner cases and data analysis from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Vectoring offers a plain-spoken framework to identify the relative position of companies compared to their peers. The framework delivers insights for practitioners to locate inhibitors and overcome them by providing practical suggestions for process improvements. This includes designing and executing new sustainability programs, embedding the SDGs within company strategy and assessing the impact of sustainability programs on competitiveness and valuation. Offering directions for CFOs to shift companies from integrated reporting to integrated thinking in order to accelerate their sustainability programs, Winning Sustainability Strategies shows how to achieve purpose with profit and how to do well by doing good.    

Learning more about the book  

In Winning Sustainability Strategies, the requirement for a clear direction and strong execution is described as the Vectoring of sustainability strategies in 14 chapters. Each chapter contains recent research data, in-depth case studies from companies such as Unilever, Solvay and DSM and practical, downloadable tools.  

If you would like to learn more about Winning Sustainability Strategies, please send a mail to Camille Simm via camille@finchandbeak.com or give her a call at +31 6 28 02 18 80. Make sure you are subscribed to our newsletter in order to receive all book-related updates.

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