Majority of companies failing to embrace SDGs

27th September 2019

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  • Global ,
  • Sustainable Development Goals


Sophia Shafi-Cooke

The majority of companies across the world are failing to deliver on the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), new research has uncovered.

The study of over 1,000 CEOs found that a mere 21% believe business is playing a critical role contributing to the SDGs, and only 48% integrate sustainability into their operations.

Just 44% believe that a net zero carbon future is on the cards for their company over the next 10 years, while advancement across the rest of the goals has been sluggish or even reversed since 2015.

Consultancy firm Accenture, which collaborated with UN Global Compact for the study, found that socioeconomic, geopolitical and technological uncertainties have distracted CEOs' sustainability efforts.

“With less than 4,000 days remaining until the 2030 target, business leaders are not content with current progress and are calling for their sectors to step-up and turn commitment into action,“ said Lise Kingo, UN Global Compact CEO.

“The scale of the challenge is unprecedented and requires all stakeholders, including governments, policymakers, business leaders, investors, shareholders, civil society and academia, to work together to accelerate change.“

UN Global Compact surveyed nearly 1,600 companies from over 100 countries. Combined with the Accenture study, the research represents the world's largest assessment of corporate sustainability.

Despite slow progress, it was found that 99% of CEOs believe sustainability is critical to the future success of their organisation, with 81% taking action to implement the SDGs.

Over 200 companies surveyed have approved science-based targets for climate action and a similar number have made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050.

Furthermore, 63% see technology as a critical accelerator of the socio-economic impact of their companies.

However, a quarter cite “absence of market pull“ as a top barrier to sustainable business, and over half say they face a trade-off operating under extreme cost-consciousness while seeking to invest in longer-term strategic objectives.

“Technology may hold the true key to unlocking progress on the global goals, said Peter Lacy, senior managing director at Accenture Strategy.

The speed of digital, biological and physical innovations will continue to be enormous in the decade ahead, and business must harness and align investments with global environmental, social and governance outcomes.

Image credit: ©iStock


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