Business reporting on the impacts and contributions to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is set to become less complex following the launch of a new report – Business Reporting on the SDGs: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets.
Developed by GRI and the United Nations Global Compact, with the support of PwC, as part of a three-year initiative established to encourage and assist corporate reporting on the SDGs, the report aligns with companies’ regular reporting cycles as they work towards their SDG objectives.
Launched at the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2017 during the UN General Assembly in New York this week, the Analysis provides an inventory of possible disclosures per SDG at target level and is a first step towards a harmonised set of indicators and methodology for business to report on. Launching in January 2018, its sister document, A Practical Guide to Defining Priorities and Reporting, will offer a structured approach to help businesses prioritise and report on relevant targets, using the Analysis to drive action.
Thousands of companies use the GRI Sustainability Reporting Standards in their sustainability reporting, and 75% of businesses participating in the UN Global Compact initiative have confirmed their intention to contribute to the SDGs in 2017.1 With investors increasingly interested in directing funds towards businesses that are leading the way on responsible business practices, transparent and effective reporting has never been more vital. The Business and Sustainable Development Commission estimates that delivering on SDGs could generate up to US$12 trillion in revenues and savings as a result of new opportunities and efficiency gains. 2
Lise Kingo, CEO & Executive Director of the UN Global Compact, said: “The SDGs provide a unique opportunity to elevate communication on sustainability. The expectations on companies are huge. The UN Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative, and GRI, the world’s leading organization for sustainability reporting, are very excited to take up this challenge.
“Our ambition is for business to use only one common standard for reporting on their performance on the SDGs, in line with the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.”
Tim Mohin, Chief Executive of GRI, added: “At a time when the revenues of large companies exceed the GDP of many countries and supply chains stretch around the world, the private sector plays a vital role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
“The document launched today represents an important step towards a unified mechanism to help companies report on the SDGs in a comparable and effective way. By reporting on their progress, companies will improve their performance, which will enable meaningful progress towards achieving the SDGs.”
There is currently no single methodology for measuring and reporting business progress and impacts on the SDGs, with most firms using reporting standards that predate the ambitious goals agreed by over 150 world leaders at the UN Summit in New York in 2015. Indeed, when the SDGs were adopted two years ago, only 13% of business leaders3 felt they had the necessary tools available to engage and report on the goals.
The Analysis and Practical Guide reports will pave the way for the development of a single mechanism and set of indicators, and therefore also the aggregation of relevant data across companies, enabling stakeholders to compare company information. Anchored in current reporting processes, they will also help businesses to better engage and communicate their contributions to the SDGs with governments and inform their sustainability reporting at a national level.
Wider stakeholder engagement has been an important part of the initiative: the three organizations consulted with representatives from more than 70 stakeholders, including over 35 leading businesses across the globe, to help inform the analysis.
As Malcolm Preston, PwC’s Global Sustainability Leader, explains, this multi-stakeholder movement will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of corporate reporting on the SDGs:
“The SDGs have ushered in a new era of global development objectives aimed at addressing the world’s most pressing problems from job creation and education to social and health protection while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
“But while it’s widely acknowledged that active participation from business is key for achieving the SDGs, no common practices for corporate reporting had been established. Transparency is becoming a basic requirement for conducting business and we’re proud to have played a pivotal role in this ground-breaking research and international stakeholder engagement. It not only contributes to a common SDG language but will help direct innovation, strategic leadership and capital towards achieving these vital goals.”