A study of the world’s largest 250 companies (G250) shows that few companies align their corporate reporting with the international sustainability agenda. The research, by KPMG International, found that most of the world’s leading companies are not reporting the business case for taking action on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There are 17 SDGs and the KPMG study used nine SDG reporting criteria to assess how the companies report. The nine SDG reporting criteria identified by KPMG were grouped under the sub-headings of understanding, prioritisation and measurement. They are as follow:
- Does the reporting demonstrate the business case for taking action on the SDGs?
- Does the CEO and/or Chair’s message talk about the SDGs?
- Does the reporting assess the business’s impact on the SDGs?
- Does the reporting identify priority SDGs for the company?
- Does the reporting explain the methodology the company used to prioritize the SDGs?
- Does the reporting identify specific SDG targets that are relevant to the business?
- Does the reporting disclose SDG performance goals for the company?
- Does the reporting set SDG performance goals that are SMART?
- Does the reporting detail the indicators the company is using to measure the progress of its SDG activities?
Companies are missing huge opportunity
The report found that:
- fewer than one in 10 has reported a business case for action on the SDGs (8 per cent); and
- only 10 per cent have set specific and measurable (SMART) business performance targets related to the global goals. However, that doesn't mean that the SDGs have been completely ignored by the big corporates. The research also found that 40 per cent of big firms did acknowledge the global goals in their corporate reporting within two years of the SDGs being launched in 2015. And, of these, 84 per cent identified the SDGs they consider most relevant to their business.
The SDGs most commonly prioritised by leading companies are Climate Action (SDG13), Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG8) and Good Health & Wellbeing (SDG3). And the least commonly prioritised SDGs are: Life on Land (SDG15), Zero Hunger (SDG2) and Life Below Water (SDG14). The study also found that:
- Three quarters (75 per cent) of companies that report on the SDGs discuss the impact their business has on the goals, but reporting is largely unbalanced with most companies discussing their positive impacts but not the negative.
- Only one in five reporting companies reports on any of the 169 individual SDG targets set by the UN.
KPMG's Adrian King, lead author of the study, said: “There are huge business opportunities inherent in tackling the world’s toughest problems, but so far only a handful of big companies have shown they understand that. These few leaders stand to benefit from recognising the SDGs as a powerful catalyst for the innovation, partnerships and market transformations that build businesses. They will also be at an advantage when communicating with the many investors, governments and other stakeholders who are taking an increasing interest in the contribution of business to the SDGs.”
What are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals?
In the year 2000, the international community, through the United Nations, set out to improve health and living conditions around the world through 15 attainable targets, called the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), with a timeline of achieving them by 2015. The goals aimed to make progress in eradicating specific diseases, hunger and extreme poverty in communities by achieving access to water, vaccines, food, education and medical care. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the MDGs in 2015 and they consist of 17 goals on poverty, food, health, education, equality and the environment, to be achieved by 2030. The 17 SDGs are:
- No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
- Zero Hunger: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Good Health and Well-Being for people: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- Quality Education: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Gender Equality: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
- Clean Water and Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Affordable and Clean Energy: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
- Decent Work and Economic Growth: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
- Reduced Inequalities: Reduce income inequality within and among countries
- Sustainable Cities and Communities: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
- Responsible Consumption and Production: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Climate Action: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts by regulating emissions and promoting developments in renewable energy
- Life Below Water: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development
- Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
- Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
- Partnerships for the Goals: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
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