More businesses are mentioning Sustainable Development Goals in annual reports, but concrete measures remain elusive, warns PwC
Increasing numbers of businesses are referencing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their annual corporate reports, but many are still struggling to identify concrete measures to deliver them beyond standard environmental targets.
That is the main conclusion of a new analysis from consultancy giant PwC based on a survey of more than 700 companies across 21 countries and six sectors.
The poll found almost three quarters - 72 per cent - now mention the SDGs in their annual corporate or sustainability reports, marking a 10 percentage point increase compared to last year.
But the annual SDG survey found that while a significant number of companies have made SDG-related commitments since the goals were adopted in 2015, there remains a gap between firms' expressed intentions and their ability to embed the Goals into business strategies and then report on progress. This failure comes despite widely acknowledged estimates that building business strategies around the SDGs can unlock trillions of dollars in revenue opportunities and cost savings, PwC said.
The poll found just 28 per cent of companies disclosed meaningful key performance indicators related to the SDGs, 27 per cent mentioned SDGs as part of their business strategy, and only 19 per cent of CEO or Chair statements in annual reports mentioned the Goals.
And while 50 per cent of companies had identified priority SDGs for their business, PwC's average score for reporting quality for those companies stood at just 2.71 out of five.
Alan McGill, PwC's global sustainability reporting and assurance leader, said that whether or not companies are mentioning the SDGs in their business strategies and reporting on progress is a key indicator of whether change is being made at the level and scale necessary to achieve the Goals.
"Success with the SDGs depends on making them a central part of business strategy," he said. "What is planned for, measured and reported in public filing is a good indicator of what is embedded in a businesses' strategy and priorities. Invariably that strategy is shaped at the very top of the organisation by CEOs and embedded with key performance indicators and reporting.
"The increase in companies indicating the SDGs challenge in their reporting is a positive sign of engagement that will increasingly need to be backed by strategies that look beyond business as usual at the opportunities being presented."