When UN members in 2015 adopted the Agenda for Sustainable Development, they committed to pursuing a global blueprint for peace and prosperity with clear goals to be reached by 2030. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a comprehensive plan for action by all countries to address critical challenges facing the planet and its people. These include goals supporting decent work, gender equality, climate change, and others. With leaders meeting this month at the annual UN SDG Summit, how is the global community progressing toward these goals?

According to recent UN assessments, members are making slow progress that may fall short of their originally stated achievements by 2030. A host of barriers stand in the way, and individual nations are struggling to overcome long-existing challenges. With ongoing geopolitical instability causing disruption around the world, and uncertain economic conditions distracting many governments, how can the global community accelerate these efforts? 

The 17 goals are an ambitious set of achievements with divergent aims but a common ambition to leave no single person behind in a sustainable future. Eliminating hunger, promoting education, creating opportunities and achieving equality are all aspirations the world can agree on, but not all organizations and people can make an equally impactful contribution to each goal. As the leader in the global HR services industry, Randstad is championing five goals where we can maximize our contributions. We believe by marshaling our resources and expertise around the world, we can spur real change and inspire those around us to make similarly meaningful contributions toward these sustainable goals.

prioritize decent work and education  

One of Randstad’s priorities is advancing two highly connected goals: Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth) and Goal 4 (quality education). We believe these form the bedrock of a well-functioning and sustainable society. People need continuous training and development to ensure they adapt to a rapidly evolving economy. At the same time, they also need opportunities to secure decent work that provide living wages. 

How do we support these? Every day, we help more than 660,000 people to find temporary work, and each year we place more than 340,000 job seekers into permanent roles. In addition, Randstad invests in numerous skilling programs around the world, including Transcend in the US. This nonprofit partnership aims to train and develop members of underrepresented groups for careers in account management, financial services, non-clinical healthcare and technology. This unique social program is beneficial to both employers struggling to find talent and participants who desire the training and career services provided through Transcend. The initiative launched in 2021 and has prepared 236 participants. It boasts a 79% graduation rate, with 65% securing jobs through Randstad.

Woman sitting at her desk, looking away from computer screens displaying marketing content.
Woman sitting at her desk, looking away from computer screens displaying marketing content.

progressing toward gender equality 

Gender equality is an elusive goal, but that doesn’t mean progres isn’t occurring. During the pandemic, women were disproportionately affected as they took on more unpaid work, suffered higher job losses and experienced greater stress. Since then, however, gender equality has returned to pre-pandemic levels, but that progress has slowed recently. In fact, according to the World Economic Forum, at the current pace it will take 131 years to close the gap. As we observe International Equal Pay Day today, a greater effort is needed to make notable progress. 

Gender inequality is well documented to be detrimental to the overall good of society. It negatively affects women’s mental health and academic achievements. Pay gaps have been shown to decrease productivity and foster resentment in the workplace. On the other hand, organizations that advance gender equality tend to perform better than counterparts.

As an organization that strongly advocates for gender equality (Goal 5), Randstad supports a number of initiatives aimed at closing the gap around the world. For instance, in Canada, our “Women Transforming the Workplace” program promotes and empowers women in the workplace through community-building and co-creation initiatives. Another initiative comes from Sweden, where we have partnered with Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) in Eskilstuna, to help them achieve their goal of having 35% women in the workplace by 2030. A significant step in the construction industry heavily dominated by men with some reports citing a mere 14% female representation.

Randstad itself has committed to gender parity in our employment practices. More than 50% of managers are women, and we are working toward the same makeup among our senior leaders. 

creating opportunities for all

Inequality doesn’t affect just women; billions around the world are losing out on social, economic and labor market opportunities. This is why Randstad actively supports Goal 10, which calls for reduced inequalities within and among countries. A number of our initiatives are aimed at advancing equality for people most at risk, including those with disabilities, who account for 1.3 billion of the world’s population. Data shows that up to 90% are unemployed in developing countries while 50-70% are without a job in developed countries, according to the UN. This group is also more likely to be inactive and face barriers to education (ILO). 

To ensure differently abled people receive the same opportunities as the general population, Randstad works closely with this talent pool to connect them to employers. How we do this is exemplified by Randstad’s National Job Center in Japan. About 60% of its workforce are those who identify as a person with disabilities. They work remotely matching job candidates to employers, supporting the local labor market with important recruitment services. Providing access to employment opportunities isn’t just a social cause; it’s beneficial to a tight labor market struggling with talent scarcity.

Working with Randstad
Working with Randstad

an urgent call for climate action 

As extreme weather continues to affect people around the world, the UN is warning that we are facing climate calamity. This is why collective efforts to combat climate change (Goal 13) must be accelerated, the international body says. Already, climate events are affecting vulnerable communities disproportionately, despite having contributed the least to the problem. Between 2010 and 2020, highly vulnerable regions, home to as many as 3.6 billion people, experienced 15 times higher human mortality rates from floods, droughts and storms compared to regions with very low vulnerability.

Randstad has pledged to be part of the UN-sponsored Net Zero coalition — a group including businesses, governments, educational institutions and communities. Its members have come together to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions to as close to zero as possible. Randstad has set Science-Based Targets (SBTis) to cut our emissions. From committing to responsible business travel to employing sustainable methods of transportation to making use of energy efficient buildings, we are making meaningful changes in the way we affect climate change.

For example, Randstad in the US is helping clients developing clean energy solutions to acquire engineers and develop talent pools in support of rapidly growing businesses. In other markets such as France, the Netherlands and Germany, we partner with educational providers to train candidates for work in the specialties of metal/electrical engineering, industrial and solar panel mechanics, and installation. 

Through efforts large and small, as standalone initiatives or in partnership with others, Randstad like many other organizations committed to the UN sustainable goals are making progress toward the 2030 targets. However, with global efforts projected to fall short of expectations, now is the time to redouble efforts. This will require a coordinated effort from all parties as well as individual undertakings that can inspire and ignite a broader movement. Regardless of which SDG one aspires to accelerate, well-coordinated work focused on clear targets will play a big part in fulfilling these goals. 

about the author
marlou leenders photo
marlou leenders photo

Marlou Leenders

global head of sustainability

Marlou has a background in international business communication and has been working for Randstad since 2005. She started as a management trainee in the Netherlands, continued as a quality manager and initiated the sustainability strategy for the Dutch operating company and was promoted to global head of sustainability at Randstad Global. With more than 10 years of sustainability experience she has taken the lead in the development of Randstad's global sustainability agenda. Through our services and partnerships Randstad has a big impact on creating a thriving inclusive labor market and accelerating global societal challenges in a positive way. As a result Randstad has been included as the only HR services provider in the Professionals Services category within the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) World Index.