Sustainable Development Goals – just hot air or a basis for action?

The world’s major companies have been slow to respond to the SDGs, but there’s still a golden opportunity to fill the void.

Sustainable Development Goals – just hot air or a basis for action?

Our analysis suggests that the world´s major companies have been slow to respond to, and position themselves on, the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A year after adoption, we have examined what 162 companies, from various industries and sectors, are doing.

Almost all the companies we analysed have CSR projects or programmes: business engagement with the not-for-profit sector is an uncontestable fact. We would therefore expect them to have been engaged with SDGs. But what is surprising is that there is no pattern. Instead, there is a vast range of engagement, from ad hoc tactical initiatives at one end to global thought leadership programmes at the other.

Unsurprisingly, the businesses most engaged with the SDGs are those that stand to gain the most from their implementation. In particular, two thirds of companies in the pharmaceutical industry have issued SDG-specific statements. Since SDG 3 relates to health and well-being, the link is clear.

Also, it seems a lot of companies are communicating around the SDGs without actually embedding them into their strategies. Only four per cent have issued an SDG report, and a nominal two per cent have put measurement frameworks in place to track activities and progress their SDG-related activity.

Right now, there’s a golden opportunity for businesses to fill the void by incorporating SDGs into their thought leadership strategies and engaging in meaningful discussions with partners and stakeholders.

Businesses looking to lead in their industries should aim to drive the discourse on SDGs because the longer they wait, the less there is to gain: meeting SDG requirements is likely to become a hygiene factor very soon.

Here is what needs to happen. SDG initiatives should be incorporated at the highest level, as the basis for entire thought leadership programmes. A universal measurement framework may not exist but that allows businesses to design one for themselves, tailoring it to showcase the pioneering work they are doing. Now is the time to act.

Please be in touch if you want to have full report or learn more about our analysis.

Download Leidar Insight Nov 2016 – Sustainable Development Goals

We will publish industry insights to the healthcare sector and SDGs on November 24th and the food and beverage insight on December 5th.

Learn more about our other SDG related engagements:

SDGs: Big conversations inspire

SDGs, COP21 and climate change: New imperatives for the private sector