The Hague, 24 September 2020 – This is evident from the “Annual Trend Report 2020, Sustainable Development Goals” that Jan Peter Balkenende received from Marieke van der Werf and Frans van Drimmelen – both partners at consultancy firm Dröge & van Drimmelen. The report was presented to Balkenende due to his chairmanship of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, a coalition of eight leading companies committed to sustainable growth and the SDGs.
For the annual trend report, Dröge & van Drimmelen investigated which trends are prominent at the intersection of public affairs and the SDGs. Discussions were held with fifteen representatives of leading organizations from all over the world and the conclusion is clear: the SDGs and public affairs are becoming increasingly intertwined. Many organizations choose to make the SDGs part of their public affairs strategy. The SDGs offer companies, governments, knowledge institutions and NGOs a common international language to communicate about their social involvement. On the other hand, organizations use public affairs to get the SDGs higher on the political agenda. It is with some regret that the Netherlands is one of the few European countries that lacks a national SDG strategy.
The report includes interviews with representatives from amongst others Philips, Mærsk, Port of Rotterdam, NOGEPA, Consulate Shanghai and SDG Netherlands. Four trends were discovered in the interviews:
First, the SDGs do not only create a better world, but also create stronger organizations. As Mirjam van Praag, chairman of the board of the VU University Amsterdam points out the following in her interview for the report: companies, governments, NGOs and knowledge institutions realize that economic growth must go hand in hand with sustainable growth. Organizations that include the SDGs in their mission or strategy generally generate more impact on social goals as well as image, employee engagement, public-private partnerships, appreciation and ultimately continuity and profit.
- Jan Peter Balkenende “I am a huge supporter of the SDGs, due to their content, goals and effect to connect everyone. The SDGs relate to everything and everyone in this world. To realize them you need common knowledge, common language and common action. Public affairs and communication make this possible. It is about vision, strategy development, making things transparent and conveying an honest story. There are great opportunities for the SDGs. And everyone plays a role in this: governments, companies, social organizations, knowledge institutions and citizens. My compliments for asking attention for this in the Trend Report”
Second, a framework-setting role for the government is important. As Herman Mulder of SDG Netherlands points out, it is crucial that the government provides a simulation framework. Various organizations argue for a national SDG strategy and more incentives for sustainable business.
Third, the SDGs strengthen a public affairs strategy. They provide guidance for communication and reporting. Arendo Schreurs, Director-General of NOGEPA, indicates that the SDGs can be used to represent the environmental performance (and challenges). Anders Würtzen, VP Global Head of Public Affairs at Maersk indicates that the SDGs shape the narrative of an organization.
- Marieke van der Werf, partner at Dröge & van Drimmelen: “Every year we write a trend report on an important development in the field of public affairs. Given the increasing interest in corporate social responsibility, we have chosen to highlight the role of the SDGs this year. As a socially involved agency, we are pleased to see that the importance of the SDGs in this context is widely recognized and is increasing in importance”
And fourth, we’re moving forward! According to the words of Jan Willem-Scheijgrond, chairman of the UN Global Compact Network in The Netherlands, among others: “we are moving from awareness to implementation”. At Philips he sees how the SDGs are increasingly becoming part of the core business. Others also see a shift from the SDGs as a communication vehicle to the heart of the company.
About Jan Peter Balkenende
In addition to being chairman of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition – a coalition of eight companies committed to sustainable growth, Jan Peter Balkenende is currently a partner at Ernst & Young and professor of Governance, Institutions and Internationalization at Erasmus University. Balkenende was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 2002-2010.
About Dröge & van Drimmelen
Dröge & van Drimmelen is a strategic consultancy that is active at the intersection of public affairs and corporate communication. With offices in The Hague, Brussels, Denmark, New York and Shanghai we advise governments, companies, knowledge institutions and NGOs all over the world on how to acquire social and political support for their issues. We are very involved in the SDGs. For example, through our sister company Dr2 New Economy, we are actively committed to accelerating the transition to a circular economy that uses renewable energy.