In a survey of more than 1,400 chief executives, 87% of respondents predicted that, within five years, businesses would prioritise long-term over short-term profitability, and that customer and other stakeholder needs would become increasingly important in successful organisations. Long-term thinking required firms to assess how their operations affect achievement of the goals, PwC’s said in its analysis. As governments implement their plans, it was in the best interests of business to know how they helped or hindered the goals being achieved and to take action.

‘The sustainable development goals and the Paris agreement on climate change put difficult challenges under the spotlight and signal a switch from short- to long-term strategies to deliver change,’ said Malcolm Preston, global leader, sustainability and climate change, at PwC. ‘Significant investment will be required to tackle these major world issues and, in my view, business will be a critical player in their success.’

He said strategic planning should start now with a greater emphasis on many of the targets behind the goals: ‘Identifying early on how a company’s core operations impact a goal’s achievement is a key way to shift from a shareholder to wider stakeholder model. It will inform how a business can adapt its strategy and respond to changing expectations of its role, and could substantially reduce regulatory risk shocks and unpredictability.’

Some 80% of respondents said they were implementing changes to minimise the social and environmental impacts of their business operations, while 76% agreed that business success was about more than profit.

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