World’s top companies failing to effectively target SDGs

27th February 2018

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  • Engagement ,
  • Society ,
  • Sustainable Development Goals


Emma Strong

Just 25 of the world’s largest 250 companies have set specific and measurable (SMART) business performance targets related to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

That is according to a new study by professional service firm KPMG, which finds that only 20 have reported a business case for action on the goals since they were launched in 2015.

This is despite a recent report from the WWF revealing how the SDGs could create 380 million jobs and help unlock at least $12trn (£8.5trn) in opportunities for businesses by 2030.

“There are huge business opportunities inherent in tackling the world’s biggest problems, but so far only a handful of big companies have shown they understand that,” study lead author, Adrian King, said.

Despite a lack of effective engagement with the SDGs, it was found that 40% of the world’s top companies had acknowledging the global goals in their corporate reporting two years after were launched.

It was also found that 84% had identified the SDGs they consider most relevant to their business, with Climate Action (SDG13), Decent Work & Economic Growth (SDG8) and Good Health & Wellbeing (SDG3), the most prioritised.

The least commonly prioritised were Life on Land (SDG15), Zero Hunger (SDG2) and Life Below Water (SDG14).

Three-quarters of the companies studied that report on the goals discuss the affect their business has on them, however, most only talk about the positive impacts and not the negative ones.

In addition, it was found that just one-fifth report on any of the 169 individual targets set by the UN, but that 39% of those that do report on SDGs include the goals in their CEO or chair’s message.

“These few leaders stand to benefit from recognising the SDGs as a powerful catalyst for the innovation, partnerships and market transformations that build businesses,” King continued.

“They will also be at an advantage when communicating with the many investors, governments and other stakeholders who are taking an increasing interest in the contribution of business to the SDGs.”

Image credit: iStock


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