Two-fifths of businesses worldwide still ignoring SDGs

As many as two-in-five businesses across the world are either ignoring the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or have no meaningful engagement with them.


That is according to a survey of 470 firms across 17 countries by PwC, with the findings suggesting that businesses are not looking in enough detail at what goals are most relevant to them.

PwC sustainability and climate change team director, Louise Scott, explains that the popularity of the ‘Climate Action’ SDG 13, for example, is likely due to regulatory obligations, rather than being a driving objective.

“But that’s not really looking in any depth at which targets are most relevant to a business – either as a risk or opportunity, and not in the spirit of the SDGs either,” she said.

“It’s time for businesses to stop paying lip service to SDGs and convert stakeholder and board aspiration into corporate action.”

The 17 overarching goals, and 169 individual targets, are designed to eradicate poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change, while ensuring no one is “left behind” by 2030.

Despite perhaps not grasping the full potential of the SDGs, the research shows that 62% of businesses worldwide are reflecting the goals at some level in their reporting, rising to 83% among UK firms.

However, PwC argue that they might not be explicitly making the connection between the goals, and understanding how focusing on decent work and economic growth may not be contributing to zero hunger, for example.

By doing this, it is suggested that firms may find it difficult to report effectively, and that shareholders could struggle to make positive judgments on the strategy and purpose of their organisation.

It is thought that, by aligning strategy with the goals, businesses could strengthen their license to operate in countries looking to create implement SDGS – gaining a competitive advantage in the process.

“Businesses need to better understand the interconnections between some of the SDGs,” PwC UK sustainability reporting partner, Alan McGill, said.

“This could prove not only beneficial to their brand and bottom line, but also their ability to expand and respond to more of the 169 targets than they may have thought possible.

“But this insight requires a more robust and sophisticated level of reporting on the SDGs than currently exists.”


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