What Every SWOT Team needs to know about Sustainability

Natalie Simmons
August 28, 2023
I might be showing my age here, but I want to start this post mentioning a single word: ‘authoritative’. It was a descriptor my teachers hammered home as the most important element when referencing any source. When a source is authoritative, it is “substantiated or supported by documentary evidence and accepted by most authorities in a field.” 

Thank you Dictionary.com…authoritative enough for the purposes of this post.

It was easier back then to find an authoritative source not in spite of, but  because there was no internet. Bare with me. If you needed information you went to the library and you looked it up, in a book. None of us were tethered to social media platforms whose algorithms served up what we wanted to hear or preyed on our insecurities, in between ads for fast fashion and make-up videos. There were no blogs, podcasts, Facebooks/Metas, Youtubes, TikToks, Telegrams, X’s or any other places where opinion was cleverly embedded into so-called news. Yes, there was fake news. And yes there were opinions. There always have been. But thanks to my teachers, I knew to check the source. If it wasn’t authoritative, it was in question, even invalid.

Today, some would argue that something that is “accepted by most authorities in a field” isn’t enough. (See the Covid-19 conspiracies and climate denialists as just 2 examples in a growing list of people leveraging a modicum of doubt to make absolute statements). I passionately disagree. When it comes to corporate action on ESG issues, one easy win is to look to the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals for guidance. 

Businesses have always known that informed decisiveness is a key ingredient to progress. Without this kind of bravery, businesses falter, even fail. This post will focus on some simple ways to leverage the UN SDGs - as an authoritative source - so that your SWOT analysis can map a sustainable future for your business. This is about finding the confidence through alignment with global sustainability objectives. 


Internal alignment with SDGs: Identify areas within your company's operations, products, and services that are already in alignment with specific SDGs. Look for eco-friendly practices, social responsibility initiatives, diversity and inclusion efforts, and sustainable supply chain management. The more you have, the stronger the platform for internal momentum.

Competitive advantage: I write about this all the time and you may already be experiencing the benefits of how alignment with specific SDGs can give your company a competitive edge. Companies that proactively address sustainability challenges can often attract socially conscious customers, investors, and partners - this in addition to lowering costs.


Environmental impact: Identify areas where your company's activities have negative environmental consequences. Think high energy consumption, excessive waste generation, or emissions. These weaknesses will negatively impact your progress towards relevant environmental SDGs.

Social impact: Assess any shortcomings in your organisational/governance approach to employee well-being, diversity and inclusion, labour rights, and community engagement. Addressing any weaknesses here will make a positive difference to achieving SDGs related to social equity and justice.


Innovation: Explore and encourage opportunities for innovation that align with the SDGs. This could involve developing sustainable processes, products, services, or technologies that address global challenges.

Market trends: Analyse market trends and consumer preferences related to sustainability from authoritative sources. Identifying shifts in demand for environmentally friendly products or ethical business practices will help you capitalise on SDG-related market opportunities.

Partnerships: Consider forming partnerships with NGOs, government agencies, and other stakeholders working towards the same or complimentary SDGs. Collaboration can amplify the impact of sustainability initiatives and expand the company's reach. The 17th SDG is even called ‘Partnerships for the Goals’.


Regulatory risks: Identify potential threats arising from non-compliance with evolving environmental and social regulations related to the SDGs. Companies that do not align with regulatory changes might face legal and reputational risks. In a growing list of nations, compulsory carbon measurement and reporting is coming.

Reputational risks: Assess the potential negative impact on the company's reputation if it does not align with SDGs. In an era of heightened social awareness, companies that fail to demonstrate commitment to sustainability could lose customer trust and loyalty, and you won’t attract and retain the talent you need to thrive.

Supply chain vulnerabilities: Evaluate how the company's supply chain might be affected by disruptions related to environmental or social issues. Consider how these vulnerabilities could affect the company's ability to meet SDG-aligned goals. Look at your supplier list too. Assess their actions almost as closely as your own.

Let’s talk Integration and Action for a moment.

So what next? The above may really throw a spanner in how you usually run a SWOT. If that is the case, then talking to us would be a smart move. Are Barefoot Citizens Consulting, we’re equipped with the workshops, tools and programs to help you face the ESG challenges of 2023 and beyond. We can help you with:

Goal prioritisation: Together we can select a subset of SDGs that align most closely with your company's mission, values, and core competencies. Through Purpose, we can prioritise the SDGs that can be realistically contributed to.

Strategy development: Developing strategies that integrate SDGs into the company's purpose, mission, vision, and business objectives is where we excel. With a strong platform, you and your SLT have the confidence to outline specific action plans, targets, and timelines to address weaknesses, seize opportunities, and mitigate threats in alignment with the selected SDGs.

Monitoring and reporting: Establish key Purpose indicators (KPIs) to track progress towards SDG-aligned goals. Regularly monitor and report on these metrics to stakeholders, demonstrating your commitment to sustainability and accountability.

The new financial year is underway. Start it the right way and talk to us about a sustainable future for your business.

Natalie Simmons, Managing Director ESG Advisory, Purpose and Sustainability Prime Financial Group I Founder & CEO Barefoot Citizens Consulting