Improving corporate reporting on the UN SDGs
Corporations uncertain about how to engage and adapt targets to UN SDGs can make use of GRI's tools and frameworks
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of global goals for countries to end poverty, reduce equality, spur economic growth and protect the environment. The SDGs, which were adopted in 2015, also represent the first time that the private sector was included as a partner with a key role in reaching these goals.
Yet the global context and scale of the SDGs can make it difficult for companies to decide how they should respond. “The goals were written for member states, so interpreting them in a business context isn’t always easy. However, they offer companies a route map and a universal platform for engagement – regardless of a company’s geographic location, industry or size,” says Alyson Genovese, director of GRI’s USA and Canada Regional Hub.
A recent PwC study of more than 700 multinational companies found 72% of published sustainability reports mentioned the SDGs, but just 23% included meaningful KPIs and targets, according to GRI. Meanwhile, 31% of GRI sustainability reports published on the company’s database in 2018 included a commitment to the SDGs.
While these data sets and reference points differ, both results indicate there is still work to do. “Many companies have issued public commitments to the SDGs – and in some cases mapped their materiality assessments to individual goals. Yet examples of aligning the SDGs with corporate strategy – supported by initiatives, R&D or investment that accelerate their achievement – are infrequent,” says Genovese.
As one of the world’s largest providers of sustainability disclosure standards, GRI works to provide the framework companies need to assess their contribution to the SDGs. For example, some of the most recent updates to the GRI Standards, for water and occupational health & safety, embed SDGs references and language.
With input from companies and nonprofit partners, GRI created the Business Reporting on the SDGs Action Platform, which provides tools for businesses to analyze the goals and targets.
GRI also collaborates with the UN and other organizations to increase reporting for the SDGs around the world.
Projects included a pilot project in Colombia last year, whereby the government became the first to use data from corporate reporting to assess business contributions and impacts on key sustainability topics, as part of their Voluntary National Review on SDGs progress.
GRI is also conducting similar initiatives in Indonesia and Bangladesh.
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