Has 3P failed? A reflection on the Sustainable Development Goals

2017 is the International year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Especially in this year, tourism businesses have the responsibility to outline their bigger purpose, how each of us contributes to a sustainable tourism industry and to planetary well-being in general.

We are an engine, hopefully a green one, to one in 10 jobs on the planet and a contribution of 10% of global GDP.

Although most companies have responsible business strategies, focusing on people and planet – next to the third P, profit – we know that:

  • Companies’ focus, often under pressure of shareholders, is mainly on short-term returns
  • To make COP21 targets and stay below 2° global warming, we will need to step it up (more than one notch)
  • Climate change risks and opportunities are not (fully) recognized

Even Unilever, one of the most sustainable companies under Paul Polman’s leadership, came under shareholder pressure recently to deliver short-term returns after the failed takeover bid from Kraft Heinz.

So, could we say that 3P – People, Planet, Profit – has failed? Yes, because it is not truly integrated in investors’ decisions, and the last P is still the dominant one.

Luckily, the United Nations have given the world new long-term targets with the Sustainable Development Goals. These 17 targets to lift people out of poverty and care for planetary resources and ecosystems are clear and all-encompassing. All stakeholders – public- and private-sector alike – are asked and expected to collaborate to make progress against them. 

As such, the SDGs should become the framework and guiding light of all business-related evaluations – public procurement, investment, financial markets, industry targets.

In Rezidor’s recently released 2016 Responsible Business Report, we linked our programs and activities for the first time to the various SDGs. Many companies in other industries are doing the same.

All these actions combined will build a wave of positive impact across the planet, which hopefully will also swoop up the investors’ community and become the core measurement and evaluation framework.