Targets 16.a and 16.b are referred to as “means of implementation” (MOI) targets denoting that they are foundational to the realization of all targets under SDG 16. By way of distinction, the preceding “outcome” targets are listed numerically and the MOI targets are listed alphabetically. Notwithstanding that the MOI targets are conditions precedent to the outcome targets within SDG 16 — as has been emphasized throughout this Framework — all of the targets within SDG 16 are inextricably connected to each other and to the SDGs more broadly. And while there does appear to be some duplication, it is worth briefly explaining the scope and relevance of these MOI targets as they relate to businesses.
What does Target 16.b mean for businesses?
This MOI target is also highly relevant across all targets and is most similar to responsive, inclusive, participatory, representative decision-making (Target 16.7) and access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms (Target 16.10). Target 16.b should also be read with Target 16.a, as without the relevant national institutions and international cooperation, progress on addressing systemic discrimination and inequalities (SDG 10) cannot be addressed effectively and holistically.
This target reinforces the need for Governments and businesses to apply a non-discriminatory lens — from laws and policies to products and services — in order to protect marginalized groups from discrimination as citizens, employees, customers and investors. These groups include women and children, racial minorities and indigenous peoples, the LGBTI community and persons with disabilities — in accordance with international human rights instruments. Consideration should also be given to how people are treated based on their age (especially the elderly), religious affiliation, political persuasion or financial situation, among other capacities — consistent with the International Bill of Rights.
How should businesses implement Target 16.b?
Businesses must ensure they “do no harm” by not lobbying the Government or adopting practices that fuel systemic inequalities or injustices to advance their own interests. This expectation is especially true with respect to indigenous groups or lower economic groups who are most susceptible to exploitation as we have seen in such situations as major infrastructure/mining projects affecting indigenous culture and communities or with the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis or, more recently, the opioid crisis disproportionately affecting lower socioeconomic communities.
Moreover, businesses should foster a culture from the “boardroom to the showroom” of diversity, equity and inclusion as it relates to their policies and practices and to their offerings and relationships. Businesses are encouraged to develop comprehensive education and training programmes that encompass sexual harassment and unconscious bias and include such themes as age, cultural sensitivities, disability, ethnicity, gender, economic standing, religion and other social considerations. These various themes are essential to consider — whether drafting market strategies or crafting marketing messages. And — as noted throughout this Framework — it is important to have the appropriate grievance and remedy mechanisms in place in order to address any instances of alleged misconduct connected to the business’ activities or relationships.
Finally, businesses have an extraordinary opportunity to advocate for universally accepted principles that promote diversity, equity and inclusion across the spectrum of protected groups. This opportunity has been demonstrated in a number of examples throughout this Framework where businesses are raising their voices and focusing their investments in order to drive legislative and systemic change in the important ways that align their interests with those of their customers, employees and communities.