Only 10 Years to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals but Businesses Remain on Starting Blocks for Integration & Progress

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Only 10 Years to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals but Businesses Remain on Starting Blocks for Integration & Progress

NATIONAL REPORT—Analysis by PwC of over 1,000 published reports from listed, private and public sector organizations, highlights that with only ten years to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a great deal of work to be done if business is to contribute meaningfully to national efforts.

PwC’s annual assessment of public reporting on the SDGs assesses the level of integration of the goals into leadership, business strategy and reporting, as an indicator of business’ vital contribution to achieving government’s stated commitments within the next ten years.

Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of organizations analyzed reference the goals in their public reporting, just over half in their annual report. Only 1 percent of the overall sample report quantitative measures to show their progress towards those targets.

It’s now four years since the Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously ratified by all 193 UN Members states as a universal framework for more sustainable ways of living and operating. While governments around the world have the ultimate responsibility for delivering on the goals, they cannot be achieved without the support of business.

Progress Requires Specific Reporting

Despite good overall awareness, progress on the SDGs could be undermined by a lack of specifics on targets, measurement, and wider business integration. Reporting progress towards the targets needed to achieve the ambitions is very immature, despite the goals offering a common language and framework to build a more transparent view of the issues, progress and scale of change needed. Just 1 percent of companies analyzed measure their performance against specific SDG targets.

Of the companies analyzed:

  • One in five leaders referenced the SDGs in their outlook for the year—demonstrating the goals are moving into the boardroom agenda.
  • Of those companies referencing SDGs, 59 percent referenced them as part of their sustainability report while just over half (51 percent) mentioned them in their annual report.
  • Fourteen percent mention specific SDG targets: of those, 39 percent identify qualitative ambitions, and 20 percent quantitative ambitions.
  • Just 34 percent of those that mentioned the SDGs (25 percent of all companies analyzed), did so in sections of their reporting that discussed business strategy.
  • Most companies identify with the goal of Decent Work & Economic Growth as their focus, but goals related to natural resources or wellbeing, critical to sustaining business feature less prominently.

Louise Scott, global lead on Sustainable Development Goals, PwC, says, “While awareness is high, unless integrated measurement and reporting takes place, progress and relevant policy measures can’t be identified at the level of detail necessary to really drive progress on reaching the goals.”

Little Evidence of Joined Up Thinking

“Companies are starting to prioritize goals they believe are relevant to them, but we’ve little evidence of joined up thinking on how the goals are approached,” Scott adds. “Goals related to water, land and energy have strategic opportunities and risks for almost every sector yet are not widely identified as considerations in future business strategies and investments.”

“The goals are practical,” Scott says. “They are both a risk and opportunity management framework from businesses’ point of view. While companies don’t need to specifically reference goals to be acting on them, we should be seeing the identification of issues that underpin them and strategies to address them, and unfortunately we’re not.”

PwC examined published reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals, including integrated reports, annual reports and sustainability reports of 1,141 listed, private and public sector organizations across 31 countries and territories, in seven industries. As the scope of companies and reports analyzed this year was larger than previous years, results are not directly comparable.