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The Sustainable Development Goals in Arabia – driving innovation

Speakers at the ‘Utilizing the SDGs to Navigate Uncertain Times’ session at the Arabia Corporate Responsibility Forum in Dubai in October 2018.

The Arabia Corporate Social Responsibility Forum 2018 recently took place in Dubai, and I had the privilege of being there to represent Ericsson. This event is the region’s premier convention on CSR and sustainability, attracting leaders, thinkers, evangelists, practitioners and policy makers from all over the globe. This year’s theme was ‘Driving Innovation Through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’.

As the representative of the only Swedish company invited to speak at the forum, it was an honor to share the stage with Dr. Iyad Abumoghli, Principal Advisor of UN Environment, and our session chair Abdul Aziz Abdulla Al Midfa of the Emirates Environmental Group. Our session focused on the topic of ‘Utilizing the SDGs to Navigate Uncertain Times’ and we had a diverse audience made up of students, social entrepreneurs, students and policymakers.

In his role as session chair Mr. Al Midfa spoke at length about the sustainability context within which governments and businesses are operating, and everyone’s role in responding to the challenges of the current time and the future, based on new paradigms and innovative problem solving. Dr. Abumoghli’s comments centered around the effectiveness of the SDGs as the new collaborative medium of economic growth, social prosperity, environmental sustainability, peace and justice and the role of instruments such as Islamic finance, among others.

When it was my turn to speak, I began by providing the audience with some context about Ericsson’s overall approach to sustainability and explained that we have been working actively with the SDGs since they were first launched in 2015. While we believe that mobile broadband can play an important role in accelerating the achievement of all of SDGs, we also believe that it is important to focus our efforts in the areas where we can have the most impact. Connect to Learn, our flagship education program, is a great example of this, addressing SDGs 4, 5 and 10.

Connect to Learn

Ericsson is committed to improving educational opportunities for girls and boys around the world through the use of technology. The goal of Connect to Learn is to provide access to quality education for those most in need – especially girls. We know that investments in technology for education are a requirement to improve access to quality education and the development of digital skills for the future workforce.

Studies show that young people without basic education have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to poor health, early and forced marriage and other forms of violence. We believe that quality education prepares young people –girls and boys alike – for economic and personal empowerment and can have a dramatic effect on national economies.

The program has now reached more than 120,000 students in 25 countries. Connect to Learn’s multi-year, multi-country experiences have been documented in partnership with the Earth Institute in the recently released report titled ‘Technology-assisted Education’.

High level of engagement

The session concluded with a lively Q&A period filled with thought-provoking questions from the audience such as:

  • How can organizations plug into the interconnection of machines, products and people to magnify economic and social value?
  • How can changemakers utilize the SDG framework to create transformative sustainable business models?
  • What kind of policies do we need to turn the tide towards green, low carbon and sustained growth?
  • How do private companies balance profit and purpose?
  • Is the internet truly inclusive?

Clearly, the SDGs provide a unique opportunity for interesting discussions that will hopefully lead to more multisectoral partnerships that will help spur progress toward meeting the goals. The time to act is now!

For more information about Ericsson’s approach to the SDGs and how we are using our technology to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges, check out the Global Goals page on our website.

Written by Sumana Sarkar

Sumana Sarkar is based in Istanbul, Turkey, where she is Ericsson’s head of sustainability and corporate responsibility (SCR) for Middle East & Africa. She was previously the company’s SCR manager for RINA (the region covering India, Nepal and Bhutan). Sumana is a social media and technology enthusiast and a firm believer in the ‘Technology for Good’ message and the positive impact Ericsson can and does have on society. Always a strong advocate of gender equality, Sumana has been a CSR and sustainability practitioner since 2002. She joined Ericsson in 2014.

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