This September, the United Nations is promoting a new sustainable development agenda by encouraging countries to adopt a set of global goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all.

With 17 significant goals in all – including ending gender inequality and empowering all women and girls; ensuring access to water and sanitation for all; and sustainably managing forests, combatting desertification, halting and reversing land degradation and halting biodiversity loss – the UN’s agenda covers just about every ambitious improvement any human could want for the Earth. It can be read as inspiring…or intimidating.


I mean, what can an ordinary person do to make a dent in goals this lofty? The exhaustive agenda is meant for entire countries, after all. It’s easy enough to skim through these aspirations, nod, and hope that NGO and policy experts are making headway with this titanic to-do list.

But that’s where the private sector can really help – by making it feasible and inviting for every individual to contribute to the collective welfare of the world. International media company Pearson is an excellent case in point.

With a determined interest in social impact, Pearson partnered with the UN Sustainability Goals and just launched a 17-day campaign to promote each of the items on the UN’s development agenda. Each day, Pearson will feature two nonprofits whose missions align with the featured goal of the day. This allows employees to choose from a wide array of NGOs around the world including the Fairtrade Foundation, GirlStart, Climate Colorado, Medecins Sans Frontieres and Gawad Kalinga.

Bravo to any company leveraging its strengths (in this case media horsepower, amongst other assets) to help the UN spread its message and galvanize global action. But Pearson isn’t stopping with the promotion of community service ideas. To encourage each of its employees to get personally involved, Pearson is matching the donations of their employees to every nonprofit that it’s featuring, or to any other organizations that fall in line with one or more of the U.N.’s sustainable development goals.

As I’ve written about previously, matching gifts is the gift that keeps giving, serving as a powerful employee engagement tool that supports nonprofits and employees alike. For nonprofits, studies have shown that matching gifts serve as an incentive in fundraising appeals and lead to increased donations. For employees, matching gifts programs are meaningful benefits that often attract them to companies and then keep them wanting to stay.

According to Double the Donation, a firm that advises nonprofits and companies regarding matching gifts programs, about 65 percent of Fortune 500 companies (and many others) match employee donations. Pearson is one of the many leading corporations that recognize the power of matching gifts to engage employees in a shared experience of giving back to a common cause.

What employee wouldn’t be inspired and activated by this effort?

Pearson’s example shows that no matter how big the cause, we can all play a part in contributing to the solution, and private corporations are uniquely positioned to get all of us involved.

“Most people do not formally volunteer,” writes volunteering expert Richard Jarvis, who serves as Senior Partner of global consulting firm Realized Worth. “Many who volunteer for the first time this year will do so through their places of work. Corporations are the gatekeepers to transformation, to empathy creation, to improving human lives globally. This is a unique, historic, and powerful position – and frankly, companies need help knowing what to do with this enormous and unprecedented responsibility.”

When businesses work in tandem to address the challenges facing us as a society, the potential for real impact is staggering. That logic is what drove Realized Worth to launch IMPACT 2030 in partnership with the United Nations Office of Partnerships. The initiative is a collaboration of companies around the world, of all sizes, to mobilize their employees in volunteer efforts towards the achievement of the post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As Jarvis describes it, IMPACT 2030 is a business-led coalition that aligns the volunteer activities of businesses around the world with the SDGs. In so doing, this movement equips corporations with resources to build and expand their current programs, while increasing the impact of the SDGs.

“IMPACT 2030 represents the belief that corporate volunteering — when used in concert with the United Nations, peer companies, government, academia, and civil society — is a powerful tool to accelerate the global achievement of the SDGs and inspire the private sector to positive action,” writes Jarvis. “If employees are supported as the primary actors in creating change, IMPACT 2030 will prove to be transformative at a global level.”

In honor of the UN’s worldwide outreach through the month of September, here is how Pearson is aligning its corporate social responsibility initiatives with the 17 sustainable development goals from the United Nations:

  1. No Poverty: The Project Literacy movement aims to raise awareness and reduce levels of illiteracy to help people lift themselves out of poverty
  2. No Hunger: Through their partnership with UK charity Magic Breakfast, Pearson is working to ensure that no child goes to school hungry.
  3. Good Health: The Pearson VUE business supports more than 100 high-stakes healthcare and wellness exam programs to certify healthcare professionals worldwide.
  4. Quality Education: Pearson will help reach this goal through their core business activities, social impact programs, campaigns, advocacy and by partnering with others.
  5. Gender Equality: Pearson’s partnership with Camfed is transforming educational opportunities for girls from low-income communities in Zimbabwe and Tanzania.
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation: Pearson has worked with Wateraid as part of their BTEC qualification in sustainability skills to raise awareness of the importance of clean water and sanitation.
  7. Renewable Energy: Pearson sources 100% of the electricity they use from green power.
  8. Good Jobs and Economic Growth: In India, Pearson IndiaCan business delivers vocational training programs for marginalized rural youth, and matches them with employment opportunities.
  9. Innovation and Infrastructure: Pearson is collaborating with UNICEF to explore innovative technology trends in search of a better future for children.
  10. Reduced Inequalities: Pearson is committed to diversity, inclusion and equality. In the UK, Pearson has an internship for UK graduates from minority ethnic backgrounds.
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities: Pearson invests in renewable energy generation in five cities where they have operations, helping make them more sustainable and limited their environmental impact for local communities.
  12. Responsible Consumption: In 2015, Pearson donated 800,00 unsold books to Book Aid International to support the development of libraries across sub-Saharan Africa.
  13. Climate Action: Since 2009, Pearson has been climate neutral for their directly controlled operations and reduced their absolute carbon footprint by 22%.
  14. Life Below Water: Pearson develops and produces curriculums and educational materials on ocean and water resources to educate future marine experts.
  15. Life On Land: Since 2009, Pearson has protected over 1,000 hectares of land in Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, the UK and Canada.
  16. Peace and Justice: Pearson’s “Every Child Learning” partnership with Save the Children aims to improve access to quality education for children in emergency and conflict settings.
  17. Partnerships for the Goals: Pearson participates in multi-stakeholder initiatives that aim to influence how they collectively achieve the Global Goals e.g. the Global Business Coalition for Education.

If your company is interested in aligning itself around these goals, as Pearson has admirably done, IMPACT 2030 is an ideal way to get involved in this global effort. IMPACT 2030 invites companies of all sizes and geographic locations to become an IMPACT 2030 Founding or Collaborating Partner. Companies can also join other stakeholders, including civil society, governments, philanthropic organizations, and academic institutions, by participating in the IMPACT 2030 network. You can read more here to find out how to get involved.

The challenges we face to save the planet and improve the lives of millions of people are only surmountable together. My hope is that the business community realizes that rising to this challenge is an important effort that they can and should undertake.