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Financial reporting should embed key sustainability data

Business has made important progress in improving reporting on key environmental and social goals but much more needs to be done, says PwC. In its report of the corporate and sustainability reporting of over 700 listed companies from 21 countries, it noted that “concrete measures and integration remain elusive for many as organisations struggle to identify actions beyond business as usual targets”. The aim of the study was to see how companies had integrated the Sustainable Development Goals into their business strategies, planning and reporting.

Need for tangible business actions

PwC's Louise Scott said: “Progress on broad awareness and integration is a positive step for the SDGs, but it’s only a small step. For every one of the 17 goals, there are pressing real world issues that directly impact the world of business. While there is a clear appetite for embracing the SDGs, many organisations still lack the strategy, tools and culture needed to transform those commitments into tangible business actions.”

Some of the key findings from the study include:

  • there has been a 10 per cent increase in businesses including Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in annual corporate or sustainability reporting;
  • 50 per cent of companies have identified priority goals, but only 28 per cent have meaningful key performance indicators (KPIs) linked to them;
  • 72 per cent mention the SDGs in their annual corporate or sustainability reports - an increase of 10 per cent on last year. However, the majority (60 per cent) of the mentions are in sustainability reports rather than in main financial or integrated reports;
  • 27 per cent of the total companies mention SDGs as part of their business strategy;
  • 19 per cent of CEO or Chair statements in annual reports mention the SDGs;
  • the average score for reporting quality of those companies that have prioritised SDGs was 2.71 out of 5;
  • the sectors of technology, media & telecoms and energy, utilities & mining outperformed other industries when it came to mentioning SDGs in their reporting.

More companies cite SDGs in reporting

PwC's Alan McGill commented: “Success with the SDGs depends on making them a central part of business strategy. What is planned for, measured and reported in public filing is a good indicator of what is embedded in a businesses’ strategy and priorities. Invariably that strategy is shaped at the very top of the organisation by CEOs and embedded with key performance indicators and reporting. The increase in companies indicating the SDGs challenge in their reporting is a positive sign of engagement that will increasingly need to be backed by strategies that look beyond business as usual at the opportunities being presented.”

Sustainable Development Goals

There are 17 SDGs, which were adopted by the international community in 2015. The goals and associated targets provide a roadmap to help organisations navigate the major environmental, social and economic challenges the world faces. PwC states: “It’s estimated that in terms of new business opportunities alone, the SDGs can potentially unlock trillions of dollars in revenue opportunities and cost savings and create hundreds of millions of new jobs.”

See here for more information on the SDGs.

Download PwC’s study here: From promise to reality 

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