To describe how far the world is from achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN and other organizations often frame the challenge in terms of finances, describing the gap as a $5 trillion to $7 trillion problem.

By abandoning a narrow understanding of capital as just assets that appear on a balance sheet, businesses and other organizations can harness the value of their people, relationships, knowledge, and processes to move the world closer to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

While viewing the issue in terms of money may make it broadly accessible, it comes with a cost: It primes people to prioritize financial considerations above other values, including equity and sustainability, when they are developing solutions. It encourages a cost-benefit mindset that privileges productive efficiency—such as minimizing expenses—over distributive efficiency, which focuses on ensuring that resources are allocated to their most valuable use. And it encourages organizations to ignore important drivers of value creation—people, relationships, knowledge, and processes—which then suffer underinvestment as a result.

We must go beyond the business-as-usual definition of capital as money, buildings, land, and equipment—the assets that appear on a balance sheet. We must broaden our understanding to include social, natural, and intellectual resources to have a better chance of building a better world.

To use multi-capitalism, start “thinking in capitals.” Ask questions like: What intangible resources does your organization develop and deploy? Who are your stakeholders and how do you develop and nurture relationships with them? What are the key competencies your people need to create value for stakeholders? How do you intentionally create cultural capital to ensure equity, inclusion, and transparency? After finding the answers to questions like these, you'll integrate the answers to form a cohesive strategy.

Read the full article about a new perspective on achieving the SDGs by Duane rollins and Elizabeth Castillo at Stanford Social Innovation Review.