Two years after the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) there are signs that corporate commitment to the goals may be slowing. A new report* released by Corporate Citizenship shows a gap between thinking and action on the SDGs.
The report reveals a 7 percent increase in the number of organizations saying that they are “aware of the SDGs, but have no plans to do anything about them” between 2016 (13 percent) and 2017 (20 percent). The proportion of companies saying they are “actively involved in a collaboration related to the SDGs” has also fallen from 40 percent in 2016 to 33 percent in 2017. The number of companies saying that in future years they will use the SDGs to “review or set new targets” and “inform strategy development” has also fallen. These trends could be a sign that companies are finding it difficult to translate the SDGs into strategic action.
The study did find some good news. Both SDG #5 (gender equality) and SDG #11 (sustainable cities and communities) have risen in prominence and are now jointly considered the third most important goals for corporates to address. The future also looks brighter for impact monitoring and measurement with over 56% indicating plans for the future, up from 35% when the SDGs were launched in 2015.
“We’ve seen lots of welcoming announcements and reporting aligned to the SDGs. But the real challenge comes in application,” said Nana Guar, the report author. “The critical success factor is for businesses to now translate intent into action.”
The findings of this report are sobering for those who want to see more businesses step up and play a more active role in achieving the SDGs. Moving companies from intent to action will take reviewing commitments, assessing material issues, setting goals, innovating products and services, and changing practices and policies.
The goals still have 12 years to go. Given the urgency of the global call to action, we hope more companies wake up to the many business opportunities of the SDGs, and quickly transition from intention to action.
*Respondents for the 2017 survey spanned 42 countries, with a particulr focus on the world's largest companies listed on the FTSE 100, Fortune 50, and Singapore Exhange. Companies were assessed using Corporate Citizenship's TAME framework – Think, Act, Measure, Engage – which was first developed in its 2015 survey as a way to assess corporate accountability on the SDGs.