SDG 8: Achieving SDG 8 Through Flourishing Businesses

J. López-Madrazo Luengo; A. DesRochers; I. Iraheta Brizzio; N. Syifa Annisa; N. Anisputri Daud; and Anonymous


Economic growth should be a force for the whole society. This is why financial advancement towards creating decent and satisfying jobs without harming the environment is essential. We must protect workers’ rights and forever stop modern slavery and child labour. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) promote sustainable economic growth, higher levels of productivity and technological innovation. Encouraging entrepreneurship and job creation is key to this, as are effective measures to eradicate forced labour, slavery and human trafficking. With these targets in mind, the goal is to achieve full and productive work, and decent work, for all women and men by 2030.

SDG 8 considers decent work and economic growth. Its objective  is to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment opportunities and decent work for all. Targets that can build on SDG 8 include: promoting policies that support productive activities, creating decent jobs, encouraging the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and promoting sustainable tourism. This goal not only proposes achieving a more fair economy, but also prioritizes the welfare of workers by seeking to provide better job opportunities and working conditions while promoting economic growth.

Sustainable development is a humane way to improve the quality of life while trying to decrease negative impacts on the ecosystem that supports life. Sustainable development has become an important issue that needs to be integrated into everyday business operations. It looks forward to an improvement in people’s welfare in order to meet human needs. Sustainable development seeks to attain equitable distribution of resources and opportunities between generations, both now and in the future.

The fundamentals of social development have five goals: ending poverty, eliminating hunger, building a healthy and prosperous life, ensuring the quality of inclusive education and achieving gender equality. The basis of economic development has five objectives: ensuring the availability of water and sanitation facilities, ensuring access to energy, increasing inclusive economic growth, building strong infrastructure, reducing intra and inter-country disparities. The basis of environmental development has six objectives: provision of clean water and proper sanitation, development of sustainable cities and settlements, sustainable consumption and production, handling the impacts of climate change, ocean and land ecosystems. The foundation of the development of law and governance is to channel economic-social and environmental flows within the general framework of enforcing “Good Governance”. SDG 8 targets to incorporate these objectives by providing a framework to ensure sustainable economic growth that benefits all.

Inclusive growth generates economic opportunities and ensures equitable access for all members of society to the economic opportunities created. Furthermore, it enables all members of society to participate in and benefit from economic growth and development on an equal footing from different socio-economic backgrounds. It should go hand in hand with consideration towards maintaining the balance between caring for the environment in the long term. This approach pursues high growth targets, manages resources including forests, soil and water properly to avoid environmental damage. Moreover, it maintains the availability of resources for future generations while creating economic opportunities and minimizing negative social impacts.

This report seeks to reflect on SDG8 and its impact over 29 AIM2Flourish stories on businesses that have successfully addressed and incorporated it into their operations. We will delve into the lives of specific people whose past has changed into a promising future. On the other hand, its present is strongly marked by the efforts of private companies that have implemented the SDG objectives. We will first describe and compare the different innovations, further analyzing how they relate to SDG 8, as well as any other goal. We will then critically reflect on the importance of achieving these goals, their application to businesses and the different perspectives that have come from this cross-cultural group. Finally, we will discuss what we learned from this experience.

Description and Comparison of the Innovations
In order to prepare for this part of our written work we decided to take a closer look at each one of the companies we had been assigned, and figure out their differences and similarities. Having done this has allowed us to understand more deeply how the business size, location and industry affect the need for innovation, and how the SDG´s connect with one another (which will be discussed later on) depending on the business we are looking at.

All the stories we have read share a common factor between them: they address a social problem while making a sustainable profit-making business out of it. But these two things cannot be considered equally important. On a large scale, social problems cannot be dealt with unless they are addressed in a profitable way. Because, otherwise, you have to depend on the government providing financial aid continuously, which is unsustainable in the long-run.

The interesting thing is how each one of them impacts on their surroundings according to their own situation and capacities. Some of them are centered on their local communities like “Distrito Chocolate” in Colombia, that fights against rural lands being dominated by illegal activities such as cocaine-making. Others, on the contrary, have an impact on a larger, international scale, for example “Tradewater”, a Canadian company, focuses on destroying ozone-depleting substances and selling carbon offset credits to other companies.

When we talk about innovation in companies we have to consider one important fact: innovation can be looked upon from many angles and perspectives. For example, to innovate in a certain industry you can: redesign a business model, develop a new process in any step of the production chain, create a new product, reorganize the supply chain, retarget the objective public of the industry, etc. Every initiative we have seen addresses one of these innovations in a different way, because of the particular situations in the growth opportunities each country and region faces.

All companies started by identifying a drawback in the usual business models and how they could change a specific part of the process in order to benefit all, and most importantly, their community. The developers all recognize that in order to grow sustainably and more efficiently, there were some key issues that needed to be addressed. Subsequently this concluded in them successfully tackling the Sustainable Development Goal 8: decent work and economic growth.

Most of the companies took the approach of the stakeholder theory (which argues that a firm should create value for all stakeholders, not just shareholders), by fostering relationships with people throughout the supply chain. Their success came from providing their workers and main suppliers with the tools they needed to grow in their industry. The food and its distribution sector have been the one where it has been applied the most. Most companies here focused on eliminating intermediaries and obtaining the product directly from the suppliers, helping them become independent, have more financial security and foster the growth of their individual communities. In the end, both small businesses and large enterprises tend to care about the social environments where they perform their economic activities. But is this something unconscious or deliberate? We found it to be the former, that most of these businesses set out to address a social issue that happened to be in line with this SDG.

Apart from this, our Sustainable Development Goal is focused on improving working conditions and economic growth. Therefore, the main factors firms have to consider in order to tackle this goal will be linked to labor rights, profitability and fair wage. We found that many of the companies have implemented their innovations in developing countries or incorporated initiatives in collaboration with their people where they have the opportunity to make a greater impact in stimulating economic growth. This is why many of our stories take place in regions where a small financial support or helpful management from an international business can make significant changes.

Regarding that, we have discovered that there is one factor which provides growth and development for a society in almost every thinkable aspect: increased access to transportation Helping poor regions by providing them with better transport infrastructures always results in the creation of social and economic value for that community. “Choyal Industries”, “100km Foods” and “Cielo Hamacas” are all AIM2Flourish examples of how wealth can be created when people are connected.

We cannot forget one thing, people are the heart of our goal. And by this we don’t refer only to the working-age population (employed and unemployed), but also to children, the elderly, or anyone excluded from the labor force. Some of the businesses we have been assigned have done improvements towards children’s education. This is the case of Orange Neurosciences, which provides tools for youngsters with special education needs. For this reason, we observed how SDG 8 embraces the person totally, including its early stages of development all the way up to adulthood.

The flourishing stories demonstrate that Goal 8 is truly congruent with others such as Reduced Inequalities and Responsible Consumption and Production goals (SDG 10 and 12). This is due to the fact that the economic growth in a country is based, among many other things, on a healthy relationship between the production capacity of the nation and the buyers that consume those products and services produced. The more efficiently resources are distributed between these two market-forces: the quicker the growth will be.

Critical Reflection

Engaging in this cross-cultural experience allowed us to be able to gain a better understanding of the importance of having different perspectives when discussing matters that affect the world as a whole. The UN Sustainable Development Goals are developed to be applied throughout the entire world, so being able to discuss them with people from different cultures, beliefs and backgrounds made for a rich and insightful experience.

Having in our group representatives of four different countries, and three continents helped us develop a more thoughtful and considerate approach to understanding the SDGs and their impact, focusing them specifically towards businesses and how they provide goal-oriented innovations towards a more sustainable business future. As business and economics majors, with the addition of some being law students as well, we were able to explore the different implications the SDGs have on business models, allowing for a more ethical approach to for-profit organizations that equates the importance of this to that of the social benefit simultaneously.

Our efforts focused on identifying and describing the impact of the eighth SDG in the concrete stories assigned, which highlight the real scope they have around the world. Once we identified the main themes, we moved on to individually draw conclusions on our unique view of the conflicts and solutions. Thanks to the multicultural nature of the group we had the rare possibility to contribute a paper that represents the standard of thinking of a university student in America, Europe and Asia. From here, a torrent of ideas developed that is intended to shed light on some of the realities of the UN’s global goals, especially the one assigned to us.

In order to carry out a critical study of our experience in the process, it is necessary to discern the steps followed and the very content of the material worked on, discussed and examined. As we have pointed out, this work has involved the dedication, over several weeks, of work guided by three university professors of the respective nationalities. In the first place, it has required coordinated teamwork with students who have not had the opportunity to meet face to face. However, the new means of communication have allowed for an easy adaptation and liberty to choose the most appropriate method in which we could get in touch with each other. The time difference also posed an initial problem but was easily solved thanks to the advice of our professors to set the early morning in Canada, the early afternoon in Spain and the late afternoon in Indonesia. Secondly, the work proceeded normally: one weekly meeting per ZOOM and the rest was individual work.

Our meetings revolved around analyzing some of the price-finalist stories from AIM2Flourish and identifying any recurring themes among them. Most stories didn’t comply only with one of the SDGs, but instead covered at least three, many of them in close relationship with each other. SDG 8 is closely linked to SDGs 5, 10 and 12 that aim to target specific inequalities and responsible production and consumption. This showed us how a business can target a more sustainable business model through many different ways and innovations and achieve more than they actually set out to do.

We were particularly surprised there were so many different types of businesses applying the SDGs to their business models, and how they were able to create successful and profitable businesses while at the same time maintaining their sustainable values. The businesses ranged from the food industry to investment banking which demonstrated how the SDGs can be applied throughout the entire economic spectrum; this debunked our previous misconception that these goals were targeted towards developing countries and made us think that they were more feasible to achieve than expected.

A recurrent theme that turned up during our meetings was whether or not these goals were achieved purposely from individuals seeking to fulfill an SDG or were incidental to an issue identified by the innovators. After reading most stories and studying how they came up with their respective ideas, we concluded that most of these innovations sought first to fix or contribute to fix a particular issue they had previously identified within their own communities and specific fields, which consequently led to them successfully reaching, not only one, but various SDGs.

Another commonality we identified when studying these business innovations was how all these businesses are all privately funded and how they did not need any financial incentive or subsidies from public organizations to seek out achieving these goals. The UN pushes the SDGs framework but has little public funding in order to achieve them, which made us think how unattainable they were at the start of this project. However, after much reading we were inspired to see how the SDGs are being achieved through ordinary people trying to make a change in their communities making for a great source of inspiration for other people wishing to innovate within their own fields making for a more sustainable future.

With regard to the definition of terms, we understand decent work as any form of paid employment that produces economic development in society and has minimum labor guarantees. By the latter we mean respect for human dignity, equal pay for workers regardless of gender, fair wages and other basic labor rights. It is important to note that the UN proposal is based on the quality of work rather than quantity. By the term “decent”, we can say that it seeks a legal defense of workers’ rights in the perspective of economic growth, and that these measures are closely related to economic growth, since the improvement of working conditions inevitably means an improvement in the wealth of the individual, but also of society. However, a question we proposed was, is this benefit equitable and fair or does it only benefit a few?

In one of our sessions we came to the conclusion that the labor reality is not as simple as eradicating unemployment, but requires above all quality of work and, as far as possible, reducing the unemployment rate. We seek to go further: work must provide incentives for workers and enable them to be competitive in a globalized, free-market world. For this reason, we focus on the centrality of the worker’s life from the beginning of their schooling to the arrival of their first job, where they must continue to grow. In other words, decent work is synonymous with education.

We were struck by the presence of the implementation of our SDG targets in developing countries. The part of the world most in need of labor reforms and where the scope for economic development is widest includes a wide variety of Sub-Saharan African, Central American and Asian countries. Hence the question we were asking about whether the distributive impact of wealth is real. A danger to development is the lack of security that exists with governments and institutions. In many of these countries, the currency itself is not exempt from fluctuations that impede stability.

On the other hand, one of our critical views was based on the idea of the post-colonial disaster of Western nations. It is now, when many of the companies involved in the labor development of countries come from developed countries. It is interesting how it is possible to see a reconciliation between these worlds.

International companies have been the main players in the development and effective implementation of the eighth SDG targets. In turn, other UN goals, especially related to responsible consumption and sustainability, have been achieved. This private initiative and the flexibility of the content of the target and that of the “target goals”, according to the UN, we consider to be the key to success. Finally, while many of these AIM2Flourish businesses impact their specific locations, they are taking steps towards global transformation.

Lessons Learned

Working in cross-cultural teams has been a tremendous experience that has allowed us to have meaningful discussions on the topics of sustainability and flourishing businesses. These international teams were composed of students from Indonesia, Spain, and Canada, across several disciplines. Our group has members studying Economics, Business, and Law, specializing in a variety of programs across these subjects. This diversity in our areas of study helped provide new viewpoints and perspectives to the topics in our discussions.

Going into these international groups, the Canadian students used the Hofstede framework to get a bit of an idea of where some differences might be. By far the area with the biggest difference was in individualism between Canada and Indonesia, with Spain ranking in the middle. This was an area we were aware of throughout the group meetings, and the Canadian student was mindful to ask questions, consider the insights provided by the group, and make decisions with the group’s interests and inputs. The Indonesian students were more observant but made inputs to discussions when needed. The Spanish students were able to use their understanding of both collectivistic and individualistic societies to help facilitate the discussions. The University of Navarra in Spain is an international school with students coming from many different countries and backgrounds. The Spanish students used their experiences working with international students at their school as a guiding template for these group meetings.

Despite the differences in culture, we found we are more similar than we are different. This could be because we’re all of a similar age, related areas of study, and the connectivity we have through the internet allows us to interact with other cultures more than ever before. There were some aspects of this project we found we stumbled on, but they were not related to cultural differences. These cross-cultural groups helped us see that we can find similarities to people in different parts of the world and we can make connections if we put in the effort.

Working as an international team came with some hurdles, but overall was an enriching experience. The main issue we all had to work around was the time zones. While this is a common occurrence in international business, this was a new experience for all of us to work around. Canada experienced daylight savings time in mid-March, which resulted in some confusion of meeting times for that week. By the time Spain was changing their clocks in late March, we had communicated our preferences with the new times and were able to adjust much better. We realized the impact that a change of one hour can have on our schedules and the importance of planning and communication.

One piece that we all agreed was a hurdle to overcome with the creation of this report was our individual sections. It was a challenge for each of us to find where we fit into this report, and how we can go beyond our discussions to contribute our findings. There was something about having all our meetings virtually that made it easy to forget about our weekly assignments and goals. We all found that throughout our time working together we were completing our weekly tasks the morning of our meetings. This could be because we are all in several other courses that are in person at our respective schools, and we are physically present for these classes. Regardless of the underlying reason, we were still able to come to our meetings prepared and complete our tasks on time.

We all agree that we were lucky with the international group we were assigned. We had some connectivity issues with some members, but regardless of who was in our meetings we were able to have great discussions. Whether the meetings were in the morning, afternoon, or evening, we all came away from each discussion feeling like we accomplished our goal for the day, and always had insightful discussions. This project only ran for four weeks, but with the connections we made in this time it feels like we know each other well. We filled every meeting with jokes and laughs and it made this such an enjoyable experience.

We asked ourselves if we had to do this all over again, what would we change or do differently? If we could have changed anything about this experience it would be to have more participation from some group members. With the time differences and internet issues, we had most meetings missing at least one or two group members. While we were still able to have their input for the written report, we think our weekly discussions would have benefited with these members present. We also felt that having more resources provided for readings on theories or relevant literature would have been helpful. We used the resources from AIM2Flourish and from the UN Sustainable Development Goals, but we feel additional resources could have improved our reflection on these topics.

Having the opportunity to work in international teams to discuss sustainability and flourishing businesses has been an immensely rewarding experience and wrapping up our report is bittersweet. On one hand we feel proud and accomplished with the work we’ve done and the progress we’ve made. On the other hand, having completed this project means that our group meetings are over. We would highly recommend this experience to anyone who has the opportunity. We feel we made an impact with our discussions and made connections with peers we would have never otherwise met.


Title URL Business Name
Tony’s Chocolonely: Cocoa-llectively Abolishing Slavery Tony’s Chocolonely
Soap for Change Pacha Soap Co.
Utilizing Risk Management to Invest in Sustainability Citigroup
Connecting the world Unboxed
Social Inclusion and Financial Independence: The Transgender Community in India PeriFerry
A Pioneer ESG-driven Bank in Russia Credit Bank of Moscow
One Small Step for Women, One Giant Leap for Humankind Evolvin’ Women
From Plastic to Fashion First Mile
Honduran Coffee: Reinventing the Direct Trade Model Aldea Coffee
Water Purification with Solar Energy Solar Water Solutions
Key2enable Key2enable
Solar Energy for the African Future Bonergie
Collect, Control, Destroy: Fighting Against Ozone Depletion Tradewater
Navigating Nature with Natives Native
Agualogic, Agua Para Todos // Agualogic, Water For Everyone Agualogic
Blending technology with Indigenous Practices – Made in India Choyal Industries
The Organic Spices, The Farmers’ Smiles Vietnam Staraniseed Cassia Manufacturing and Exporting Joint Stock Company (Vina Samex)
Moda Artesanal, Sombreros y Accesorios | Handmade Fashion, Hats and Accessories Nahui by GM
A Step For Change In Fashion: Mexican Nopal Leather Adriano di Marti | DESSERTO
Giving Birth to Water AeroNero
How a B Corp Marketing Pioneer Does More Good Global Prairie
The Disruptor: How ‘Studio Wae’ Created Circular Design Products from Waste Studio Wae
Tejiendo tradiciones para crear comunidades sostenibles-Weaving Traditions to Create Sustainable Communities Cielo Hamacas
Bringing Local Farms and Chefs Together 100km Foods
A Lifelong Devotion to Local: Washtenaw Food Hub Washtenaw Food Hub
A PIPELINE towards a Sustainable Future Baden Coffee Company



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Critical Reflections on Innovative Flourishing Businesses in the context of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Copyright © 2022 by J. López-Madrazo Luengo; A. DesRochers; I. Iraheta Brizzio; N. Syifa Annisa; N. Anisputri Daud; and Anonymous is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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