An Interview with Sheila Casserly. from the United Nations Development Programme’s secretariat Business Call to Action
SL Route Four learners are currently conducting research to answer the question “How can students at Sabancı University contribute to local sustainable development?” in their Proj 001 course. To give the Proj 001 teams more insight into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) we were delighted to welcome Sheila Casserly. from the United Nations Development Programme’s secretariat Business Call to Action. Sheila gave a presentation about SDGS in general and more specifically about how companies in Turkey are adopting them to promote their business. After the talk Sheila was interviewed by SL learners Mustafa Melih Demircioğlu & Özen Özdemir.
Özen: All SDGs are important, but which one do you think is the most important?
Sheila: That is a really hard question. I guess the seventeenth which is partnership for the goals. I think that one is the most important one because it transcends a specific issue, it is more than an SDG. All of the individual issues in SDGs are really important. I think seventeenth, partnership for the goals, is the one that ties them all together because that is how the goals can be achieved.
Only through partnerships with lots of diverse people like we said in the presentation, it is not one company, one government, one person can achieve, but it requires everyone working together. I think that is the most important one.
Melih: What exactly do you do at your job? Do you encourage companies to support SDGs, or check them if they are doing it correct, something like that?
Sheila: Yeah, so, I specifically, in my job, I find, it is both, I both encourage companies to consider SDGs as a framework or as guidelines about if they are not already doing that. However, most of the time most the companies that I work with are, they usually already aware of the SDGs, so what I do is, I encourage them to consider inclusive business specifically, which we talked about in the presentation, including low income communities in their business. That is one way to contribute to several of the SDGs at the same time. So I talk to companies about SDGs and about the inclusive business. Through our membership platform, ‘Business Call to Action’, my project, once we found those companies, with inclusive business models then we give them.
Sheila: Well, mostly, by the time they become a member, by the time start working with us, they already have inclusive business model, so what we then do is we try to show there inclusive business modal to as many people as possible. We try to give them visibility so that other people who are interested, other companies who are interested in SDGs but don’t really know how to do it, then they have these examples.
Melih: And they can see this from your website. It helps them a lot.
Sheila: Exactly, like I showed in the presentation, Big Chefs and Turkcell, those are examples of member pages on our website, and it shows for all of our member companies. We have 245 members. For all of our members it shows what their inclusive business modae looks like, how they work with low income people and, yeah, it is good inspiration for other companies who are interested in developing an inclusive business model. One other thing that we do with companies is we help them measure their contribution to the SDGs. So we also work with companies, actually on choosing indicators, we help them choose indicators that show how they contribute to SDGs, they can measure very specific things on customers and their employees. We help them with that measurement.
Özen: When we look at the SDGs’ budget, the states’ contribution is low when we compare it to private companies. Why do you think it is like that?
Sheila: I think states are contributing a lot, I don’t know if that is necessarily, that companies are contributing more than states, governments. I don’t know the specific information about it actually. I think there is a mismatch in how much certain companies are contributing, some countries do a lot with the SDGs, some don’t do anything, some companies do a lot, some don’t do anything. I think it is resistance to change lack of awareness about what the SDGs really are.
Melih: Who benefits most from the SDGs? People, companies or governments?
Sheila: I think if everyone plays a part but the average person can benefit the most. Everyone can benefit because healthier people with access to Internet, technology, health food and health care are better for the government. They are less strain on society; they are more productive so it is also good for business. When the average person is happy, everybody else is happy and I think that if all the goals are achieved than the average person can gain most because we can be in the fresh air with the beautiful environment and we are healthy, happy and we have good education and we feel equal and empowered with others. I think the average person has the most to gain and through that everybody else has a lot to gain.
Özen: So, who do you think a change maker is?
Sheila: I think anyone can be a change maker. Not everybody agrees with me but I like companies as change makers because I think they are so influential. We all interact with companies everyday and they have a lot of resources. I think they have a power to make a big statement. Because they have so many resources and influence it’s also kind of a responsibility for them to make change happen.
Melih: So do you think that SDG should start from companies?
Sheila: Yes, I think they are such influential change makers. I think they can have SDGs everywhere; they can bring awareness of the SDG’s to the average person. I think a lot of people still don’t really know what SDGs are, maybe they hadn’t even heard of them. Because there are so much influence everyday from companies around us through advertisement, what we wear when we shop, things we buy or what we see on the Internet; I think they can bring SDGs to the front line.
Özen: They have the biggest impact on us.
Sheila: Yes, exactly.
Melih: What would you suggest young people like us?
Sheila: I think trying to breakdown the big goals into small things that we can actually measure and observe in our everyday lives, just looking around us, seeing examples of positive impact of the SDG’s also as individuals using them as guidelines for what kind of future we want to live in. I think everyone can agree that they want to live in a future where there is no poverty, no hunger and where everybody has a good education, and where there is access to jobs. So, just keeping them as a lance but not being overwhelmed by how big they are, breaking it down.
Özen and Melih: Thank you very much for your time.