David Craik speaks to Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, about blazing a trail as the first state to enshrine the Sustainable Development Goals in law
In 2016, the Welsh government passed the ground-breaking Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, based on the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The UN’s goals recognise that ending societal problems such as poverty must go together with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and support economic growth, all while tackling climate change.
The Act put in place seven wellbeing goals, addressing many of these global challenges. Within this all the public bodies in Wales, such as health boards, the Welsh government and local authorities have a duty to maximise their contribution towards the goals.
Now organisations have to think across all seven goals, rather than their siloed area
“In the past the economic side of an organisation might not be thinking about the environmental or health side, and vice-versa,” says Sophie Howe, Future Generations Commissioner for Wales. “Now they have to think across all seven goals, rather than their siloed area. They also need to show they are planning for the long term, preventing problems from occurring or getting worse, collaborating with each other and involving citizens. My job is to support them and monitor.”
One of those stated goals is a more prosperous Wales that “develops a skilled and well-educated population in an economy which generates wealth and provides employment opportunities, allowing people to take advantage of the wealth generated through securing decent work.”
There are a number of levers where this flows down to the private sector, Howe says. “Our public bodies are required to demonstrate how they procure against the goals. In a recent rail franchise contract, I intervened asking Transport for Wales how it would deliver prosperous Wales, such as having social enterprises in stations rather than Starbucks, deliver apprenticeships or reduced fares for those in areas of deprivation into our city centres.”
She adds that any business that the private sector does with the public bodies must also demonstrate how they are meeting the seven goals. “The Act has created a movement for change and is being embraced by the private sector, even though they are not statutorily obliged to take it on board. For example, I have worked with the construction sector which has come together stating that there is a huge amount of sense in the Act and they want to be part of it,” she states.
Howe says Wales has seen great interest in replicating its model: from the UK’s Labour Party and the Scottish government to Canada, Gibraltar, the Netherlands and the UAE, which has just developed a national wellbeing strategy. “There is a huge amount of interest. We hope that what Wales is doing today, the world will do tomorrow.”
This article is part of the in depth Inclusive Capitalism briefing. See also:SDGs Future Generations Wales Sophie Howe