The United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals are broken down into 169 targets and 231 unique indicators.
Although framed for governmental responses, many of these targets and indicators are readily applicable to companies – particularly those seeking to address (as many are) the SDGs as part of their wider ESG programme.
In this series of Briefing Notes, I will draw on examples to illustrate how selected SDG targets and indicators are being addressed.
The quest for increased agricultural production over the last half century has come at considerable cost. Agricultural food production has become increasingly reliant on the use of fertilisers and pesticides.
The problems with this approach are manifold: we discover (often too late) that the chemicals used are harmful to the human population or to animals/insects (e.g. bees), the run-off from fields has innumerable negative consequences for river/sea life, including: de-oxygenation and algae growth, the costs of using fertilisers and pesticides increases in a vicious circle and agricultural practices are altered in unsustainable ways (e.g. so-called ‘industrial farming’).
Such practices also often leading to desertification; a process induced by human farming activity that results in previously fertile areas becoming increasingly arid, resulting in irrevocable damage that, paradoxically, to remain productive requires ever intensive fertiliser/pesticide usage. It is clear that the World cannot continue down this path.
Consequently, SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing includes, alongside a disparate range of harm reduction and health promoting measures, Target 3.9 “By 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination.”
A range of modern and innovative food production systems are evolving which obviate the reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides – thereby directly addressing SDG 3 and Target 3.9. Companies innovating in this area include those involved in vertical farming, such as SmartKas.
The mission of SmartKas is to create a fully sustainable, clean and green agricultural process relying on renewable sources for energy and water, while producing food without pesticides in a smart and efficient way.
The SmartKas process envisages utilising the latest technological solutions in artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud computing and advanced lighting, as well as drones to create green and sustainable production facilities that do not contribute to waste.
Moreover, the SMARTKAS production cycle is foreign substance free, meaning that no pesticides are used in the process and the water consumption is reduced by up to 95% via a hermetically closed system and recirculation of water preventing any issues with run-off.
SMARTKAS is an Agri-Tech enterprise fusing solutions found in hydroponic greenhouses with high precision farming tech. SMARTKAS is driven by AI, Drones & Robotics, as well as a cutting edge Cloud-Computing Software.
It is important to remember that not all SDGs and certainly not all targets and indicators are relevant to every company.
Companies are, in fact, pretty much free to choose which of the SDGs, targets and indicators are most relevant to their activities – the important thing is to be clear about this.
There is, however, one caveat, to wit, the SDGs, their targets and indicators cannot be offset: companies cannot offset one SDG against another. Honesty and integrity is, after all, a key element of the G in ESG.
This article was written by Professor Kevin Haines