The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs are an ambitious step towards sustainable development, taking a much broader view of sustainability than ever achieved previously, yet practical challenges remain, including how to implement change. The aims of this research were to determine how an influential aquaculture company in Australia – Tassal, Tasmania’s largest salmon aquaculture company – perceived the SDGs, and to ascertain the motivations and barriers for Tassal to work towards implementing the goals. Interviews were conducted with leaders, employees and external business partners. Tassal was not aware of the SDGs prior to this project, but were open to considering implementing them in their current sustainability practices. The survey responses were analysed using the Values-Rules-Knowledge (vrk) framework of decision making.
Key findings were: 1) corporate and personal values were the key component driving Tassal’s positive responses to the SDGs; 2) awareness of the SDGs resulted in Tassal recognising the potential gains from engaging with some of the seemingly less aquaculture-related goals (such as health and wellbeing). These findings demonstrate that businesses can fruitfully engage with the SDGs, even without government requirements or societal expectations, if they are prepared to broaden their interpretation of business sustainability and be reflective about their values. The vrk model is a potentially useful addition to current SDG and sustainability tools, such as those of the UN Global Compact, as a way to diagnose organisational barriers to adopting practices aligned with the SDGs. An emerging area of importance to social, economic and environmental sustainability – social license – was also identified as implicit in many, but not explicit in any of the SDGs.
The article is available here.