Global businesses failing to integrate SDGs in financial reports

The majority of listed companies worldwide do not embed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their financial reports, a study of 729 businesses has found.


The research suggests that, despite a growing number of firms committing to the goals since they were launched three years ago, there remains a gap between action and expressed ambitions.

It was found that 72% of companies now mention the SDGs in their accounts, but that 60% of these only reference the goals in their sustainability reports and not their financial ones.

This is despite international standard-setters like the Global Reporting Initiative increasingly encouraging businesses to integrate financial and non-financial reporting,

“Progress on broad awareness and integration is a positive step for the SDGs, but it’s only a small step,” said Louise Scott, global SDG lead at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which carried out the research.

“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.”

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission believe the SDGs could create hundreds of millions of new jobs, and unlock trillions of dollars in revenue opportunities.

Despite an apparent gap between ambition and action, PwC found that nearly three-quarters of organisations mention the SDGs in their annual corporate or sustainability reports – a 10% increase on last year.

Half have identified priority SDGs, although only around a quarter mention the goals as part of their business strategy and disclose meaningful key performance indicators.

The survey also found that decent work and economic growth, climate action, and responsible consumption and production remain the most popular priorities.

“Success with the SDGs depends on making them a central part of business strategy,” said Alan McGill, PwC’s global sustainability reporting and assurance leader.

“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.” 


Image credit | iStock

Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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