What Sustainable Development Goals Mean to You


By Cindy Banyai, Ph.D.

If you have worked in any type of forward-thinking organization in the past 20 years, you have probably heard the buzz around sustainability. It’s been all the rage for a while now but remains something that is hard to define and even harder to implement. While some organizations focus on environmental sustainability, and others focus on financial sustainability, I’m here to offer a kind of one-stop-shop for your organization’s sustainability efforts – the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)!

What are the SDGs?

The SDGs are a set of 17 goals established by the global community through processes in the United Nations. The 17 big, audacious SDG areas have a series of targets and indicators that drill down into specific areas that countries and organizations can work towards. The SDGs build off the first comprehensive set of global development goals, the Millennial Development Goals (MDGs), which expired in 2015. The MDGs were focused on alleviating abject poverty in lesser developed countries, whereas the SDGs are broader goals that need action from all people in all countries in the world – the global community is a complex system with many interconnections after all, and no one entity operates in a vacuum.

Global Goals – so what?

You may be thinking – that’s nice, big goals to improve our planet, but what can I do? I’m not a national government or big agency. This is where the concept of localization comes in. Look at the 17 SDGs (and the targets and indicators when you need a little more detail or are getting ready to measure) and you pull them down to your level.

You may not be personally able to “By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round,” but you may have a group of people in your office that volunteer once a month at a soup kitchen. It all starts with a team within your organization (preferably with senior leadership ties) looking at the SDGs and your own strategic plan and seeing where there are connections. From there, you can look to either better situate your organization’s goals to align with the SDGs, add new goals to connect in areas you aren’t currently, or just prioritize the goals that are already connected or aligned with your mission. Go a step further by crafting action plans and implementation strategies for any shifts or new goals your organization wants to link up too! As OD professionals, we know that this is the main part of strategic planning and change management.

Bottom Up -Top Down Measurement

Good work! You’ve linked your organization’s goals to the SDGs! Now it’s time to figure out your organization’s contribution to the SDGs. As OD professionals, you already know the importance of using data and evaluation to inform processes and make decisions. With the SDGs, there are two main ways to do this.

  1. Program evaluation – Measure the outputs and outcomes related to the linked activities your organization is engaged in related to the SDGs and report them. This is what I call the “bottom-up measurement” toward the SDGs.
  2. Impact evaluation – Analyze and report the SDG targets and indicators at the lowest jurisdiction related to your organization (i.e., city, county, state, or organization if it’s very large) and track the progress over the years. This is what I call the “top-down measurement” of the SDGs. This type of impact evaluation report is a service to your surrounding community and can become a resource for others wanting to engage with the SDGs. It also shows commitment and awareness of the goals on behalf of your organization, which bodes well for community relations and can better inform high-level decisions within your organization.

Don’t forget marketing! 

Engaging with the SDGs as a form of corporate social responsibility (CSR) demonstrates enlightenment and goodwill. However, many organizations also want to know how they can leverage these types of activities to improve their reputation and for marketing more broadly. Aligning with the SDGs is helpful for this as well because it provides content and graphics that anyone can use and is increasingly becoming recognizable in the CSR space. Connecting with the SDGs will give your marketing team another way to frame the story of the good work your organization is doing.

IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD.

IOD’s OD Certification Programs are offered online over 8 months, meeting 3 hours per month.  Each session is delivered through Go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning experience.




This certification program provided me with the resources and tools I needed to practice OD.  The structure and process helped me to be more confident and focus on helping the client achieve their goals.


The practical experience I learned during this program gave me the confidence to support organization change management initiatives.  I used the skills to transfer my knowledge immediately after each session.




Dr. Cindy Banyai is the Vice President of Strategy and Operations of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, HR Business Partnering and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills courses for ongoing learning.  She can be reached at cindy@instituteod.com.  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, please visit our website www.instituteod.com.



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