Addressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Four Key Areas for Employer Action

Health and well-being leaders can take four key steps to drive progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being.

The world is less than a decade from the 2030 deadline to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – 17 goals that provide a blueprint to speed prosperity for individuals and the planet. However, world leaders announced at September’s UN SDG Summit that only about 15% of these goals are on track to be achieved.

With mounting pressures for the world to meet SDGs, employers have an opportunity to accelerate progress related to Goal 3- Good Health and Well-being (SDG-3) and its targets, through their global health and well-being initiatives.

The following showcases targets as written in the SDG blueprint that are particularly relevant to health and well-being leaders at multinational organizations, and offers ideas for organizations to move the needle through their programming:

Target 3.3: End the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases

In a world where global travel, interconnected economies and multinational workforces are the norm, employers, especially those with global operations, should continue to implement and monitor measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Employers can build from learnings from COVID-19, especially in geographies where their employees may be at higher risk, in the following areas: 

  • Implementing Vaccination Programs: Facilitate on-site/near-site vaccination clinics or incentivize employees to get vaccinated through private or government programs, depending on the geography.
  • Designing Equitable Leave Policies: Review and adapt policies to meet the needs of employees worldwide who may face different health challenges to take the appropriate time required from work to recover and prevent the spreading of communicable diseases, enabling a strategic balance between meeting business obligations and workforce needs.
  • Cover for HIV/AIDS Exclusions: Incorporate coverage in health care benefits to protect employees from contracting HIV/AIDs and ensure that those who are or become infected can access the necessary health care services.
  • Pursue Partnerships to address any care exclusions: Consider partnering with brokers and insurers, including captive insurance company administrators, to ensure employees in all countries can access the appropriate health care services for preventing or managing sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.

Target 3.4: Reduce by one-third premature mortality from non-communicable diseases through prevention and treatment and promote mental health and well-being

Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disease are a primary cost driver for employers, impacting workforce productivity and presenteeism. Additionally, employee mental health and well-being needs continue to rise. Employers are well placed to help prevent and manage many of these conditions through:

  • On-Site Screenings and Prevention Programs: Offer robust options in preventive care, from regular biometric screenings to routine cancer screenings, which assist employees in detecting, managing and controlling chronic conditions, including obesity and diabetes.
  • Addressing Mental Health: In many parts of the world, employers can fill critical gaps in care for employees and family members experiencing mental health concerns through private health insurance coverage and virtual solutions that enable quicker access to culturally conscious care. They also can play a role in reducing psychosocial risk factors, promoting mental health, and reducing stigma across their workforces.

Target 3.5: Strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, substance use has risen and can significantly impact employers, employees and their families. Employers can address this escalation through:

  • Learning the Signs and Symptoms of Substance Use: Implement preventive measures and establish policies and initiatives to assist employees.
  • Reducing Stigma: Adopt people-first language throughout the organization to provide support rather than perceived judgment.
  • Steer Employees to Evidence-based Care: Help employees navigate and connect to high-quality, evidence-based programs and ensure vendors, including navigation services, health plans, EAP and others, are educated on company resources for substance use disorder.

Target 3.7: Ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including for family planning, information & education, & the integration of reproductive health into national strategies.

Sexual and reproductive health care is a cornerstone for employee well-being in an inclusive and equitable society. Moving toward 2030, employers can make a significant impact in this area by offering comprehensive benefits in the following areas:

  • Family-Forming Benefits and Women's Health: Understand the global landscape of fertility and family-forming benefits and the variable and evolving needs across cultures and countries for employees – including navigating different regulatory environments and policies when forming policies.
  • Access to PrEP and HIV/AIDS Care: As with the actions suggested for communicable diseases, ensure HIV/AIDs coverage is included for employees and advocate for coverage solutions for employees in countries that may have HIV care exclusions or country-level exemptions.

The Benefits of Aligning Organizational Strategies with UN's SDG 3 Goals

Employers who consider incorporating SDG 3 into their health and benefits programs and policies can contribute to the global effort to improve health outcomes and enhance their workforce through the retention and recruitment of talent.

The collective effort of employers, in partnership and collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations, has the potential to shape a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

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