New tool to help align strategic decisions with the 2030 Agenda

29th March 2019 by Emma Goring

Sweden’s Innovation Agency, Vinnova, is investing close to 10 million SEK (around US$1 million) in developing a crowd-sourced online tool to help industries, governments, civil society organizations and others to ensure their long-term strategies deliver maximum positive value to society.

The Agenda 2030 Compass is being developed by a team including Stockholm Environment Institute, Jernkontoret (the Swedish steel producers’ association), software developer Foxway and the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence.

There is increasing demand for products, services and infrastructure that are sustainable throughout their lifecycle. This has raised the question of how businesses, governments, civil society and other actors can ensure that their organizational visions and strategies deliver sustainability, and all-round societal value.

To help them, a new project is creating an on-line, user-friendly tool, the Agenda 2030 Compass, based on an innovative prototype developed with and for the Swedish steel industry. In pilot testing, users have identified a multitude of potential uses for the tool; for example, in drafting strategies for businesses or industrial sectors, government development strategies and policy-making, research agendas, donor strategies, or civil society programmes.

Harnessing interactions

The Compass takes as its starting point the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted unanimously by world leaders in 2015. The 2030 Agenda represents a holistic global vision of sustainability and how its many dimensions interact.

Måns Nilsson, Executive Director of Stockholm Environment Institute, said: “The unique quality of the SDGs is that they are interlinked and indivisible. By connecting SEI’s research on the 2030 Agenda with an industry’s progress to achieve the SDGs, new insights are gained – insights that can be put into action through decisions about new investments or policy measures.”

Reflecting this indivisibility, the Compass allows users to take into account all 17 SDGs and how they interact with each other – and with strategic options being considered by the actor in question. In this way, the Compass will be able to quantify, visualize and compare how the different action options contribute societal value across all the SDGs in order to maximize the positive interactions and minimize the negative ones.

From Swedish steel to a global vision

Bo-Erik Pers, CEO of Jernkontoret, said: “The Agenda 2030 Compass has huge potential to become a universal tool for steering towards societal value. The prototype version has shown how our industry can use Agenda 2030 to do so. Now it is time for actors in other sectors to use the compass, not least our legislators, to ensure that all aspects of sustainability are taken into account in parliaments and governments.”

To better reflect how different goals and strategies might interact in the wide range of contexts where the tool might be used, the Compass will draw on a combination of expert assessments and crowdsourcing. Robert Laubacher, Associate Director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, said: “Online crowdsourcing seeks to tap the collective wisdom of a diverse, geographically far-flung group. We believe such an approach can generate deep insights into the choices we’ll face in the future.”

Foxway’s role will be to help make sense of the intricate network of interactions between SDGs in different settings. Stefan Nilsson, CEO of Foxway said: “As founder of Foxway I am very pleased to participate in this promising project. The math behind the Compass will help to simplify the complexity and to present the results in a way that makes sense to decision-makers.”

The project will be presented to politicians, governmental agencies, academia and industry for the first time at the Metallic Materials programme conference 6 March in Stockholm, Sweden. The project is funded by Vinnova, within their strategic innovations programme Metallic Materials, and will be active during 2019–2022.