In entrepreneurial circles throughout the world, there is a lot of chatter about the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs)—17 goals to address some of the world’s most challenging socioeconomic, environmental and lifestyle issues. And that’s due in no small part to the work of Vanderbilt Financial CEO and EO New York Chapter President Steve Distante.
In 2015, inspired by Elon Musk and the story of Tesla, Steve was searching for a way to shore up his personal and professional commitment to being the change he wanted to see in the world. At the same time, the United Nations was unveiling its SDGs. The timing was kismet.
Steve began using these wide-reaching global goals as a guide to aligning his life and business with a greater purpose. He rebranded Vanderbilt Financial as an impact investment broker firm, ensured that his company headquarters were environmentally sustainable via Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and became an outspoken advocate for the UN SDGs. Steve started his advocacy work at the EO chapter level and slowly ramped up his efforts over the years.
Just a few short years after making the decision to align his career with his personal desire to make an impact in the world, Steve was named EO Global UN Ambassador. Today, he tours the world challenging and inspiring entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs to select a UN SDG to serve as their guide to being a successful business person and global steward. He earned a nomination for 2018 EO Global Citizen of the Year.
If you’re looking for a way to help the world and your business thrive, here are three tips you can learn from Steve’s journey.
1. Identify at least one SDG that you’re passionate about
Take a good hard look at the work you’re already passionate about and where it intersects with one or more of the UN SDGs. Then use this as a starting point. If you work to educate and train people, for example, perhaps SDG 4, “Quality Education,” is one that naturally fits with your existing priorities. Or, if your work benefits women and girls, perhaps SDG 5, “Gender Equality,” will serve as a springboard for your efforts going forward.
Through his work as the EO New York Chapter President, Steve has led his chapter and its board to embrace SDG 4, which aims to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning.”
“When I became president, the culture of the EO New York chapter was not great. There were no smiles or excitement. This [focus on SDG 4] turned things around and gave our board purpose, excitement and unity,” Steve says.
2. Choose a champion.
Designate a spokesperson who is a passionate and well-spoken advocate of your work. This will ensure that your work around SDGs is positively publicized and inspires others to support SDGs.
So, look at yourself, your team and other people within your network—clients, customers and brand ambassadors. Then identify the person who can best personify the passion and get others excited about it. That person should be your advocate or champion!
For EO Global, that person is Steve. “My role as the EO UN Global Ambassador means my work supports all of the SDGs. Every entrepreneur who I am able to inspire to change their company to change the world in an impactful way is an opportunity to affect one or more of the SDGs,” he says.
3. Create a network.
Supporting the SDGs is no small undertaking. Work with your team to prioritize efforts and maximize your social impact. You’ll need support from members of the community, other entrepreneurs as well as clients and customers. Don’t be shy about creating a network to help you through the process of aligning your business with an SDG, and also to help you stay the course in the future.
Steve shared that he works, “with presidents of various chapters to help them in this mission and with EO headquarters to develop a platform and a global competition held by EO to celebrate those entrepreneurs who are making a difference.”
Steve and the EO global community wholeheartedly believe that committing to the SDGs is a key way for entrepreneurs to make their mark on the world. “I believe that the SDGs and the intention of the movement are extraordinarily important to entrepreneurs, especially EOers. As our businesses grow, we are often unfulfilled when we hit monetary goals—and so we look for more. Many of us think that the answer is to sell our businesses and give money to philanthropy, but unfortunately that model is broken. We can lose our position and influence that we had while in business and we lose our purpose when we cash out.”
“The new reality and business model that I share with entrepreneurs is that by aligning your business around one or more of the SDGs, your business will become more valuable and more meaningful to you, the entrepreneur, the people you employ and the clients or customers that you serve! It is a win-win-win,” Steve explains.
If you’re ready to start winning, learn more about the EO Impact initiative and the SDGs and start exploring how your work can align with them!