The parliamentary International Development committee held an inquiry into the UK’s implementation of the global goals, which were agreed by governments in September.

In their report, the MPs said that the government should lead on communicating the SDGs to the private sector, using the expertise in the business department (BIS) and UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to support the Global Commission on Business and Sustainable Development. This was set up in January by Unilever chief executive Paul Polman and former UN deputy secretary general Mark Malloch-Brown.

The MPs called on BIS and UKTI to devise a business case for engagement with the SDGs, which should include benchmarks firms could use to report against.

The idea was suggested to the committee by Steve Waygood, chief responsible investment officer at Aviva Investors. He said performance league tables could be transformational in encouraging private sector involvement, as they would enable investors to compare and reward the relative performance of companies within a sector on a range of business-relevant sustainability issues, such as gender diversity, climate risk and human rights.

The MPs also criticised the government for its lack of action on implementing the SDGs domestically. The goals are not mentioned in recently published departmental plans, which demonstrates a ‘worrying lack of engagement’ across government, it said. Sue Riddlestone, chief executive of Bioregional, said government departments tended to see the SDGs as an international development issue, which was a missed opportunity.

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