How should business approach embedding the SDGs into their core business?

(Julie Wallace) #41

In terms of tools and reporting, it is helpful that the UN, NGOs and groups such as BFP continue to raise awareness and encourage companies to report on how they are contributing to the SDGs. The sharing of information and approaches will provide more opportunities for collaboration.

As I mentioned earlier, at Standard Chartered, we provided some references to the SDGs in our 2015 Sustainability Summary and plan to provide additional references and more detail in our 2016 Sustainability Summary – to be released at the end of February 2017. Our 2015 Summary is available here (see page 13)

Prior to the SDGs, we'd also linked our work to the MDGs.

(Matthew Gitsham) #42

Yes, language is definitely an issue. What we've heard is that for those companies that have a longer history of involvement in global sustainability initiatives and partnerships (for example the UN Global Compact and related issue-platforms), senior management in these companies already have a degree of familiarity with UN priorities and language etc, and so SDGs terminology can get a reasonable amount of traction at this senior, global level. But even in these companies, then trying to reach out to other parts of the business - local business unit heads for example - the individuals leading this work are having to reframe the rationale and justification for the work, talking more about the specific business case for the organisation, and how it fits with local challenges and priorities - SDG language can be quite unhelpful, even if the topic being discussed has is on the agenda because of the SDGs.

Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Matthew - one of my worries is about the language barrier here. In your experience are companies finding traction internally for the SDGs terminology?

Matthew Gitsham said:

From the conversations we've been having with companies already engaging with the SDGs, I've heard several ways in which the SDGs are already having a practical impact. For organisations reviewing their sustainability strategies, the SDGs are being used as a reference point - if a company is making a decision between which initiatives to prioritise, it is choosing those that align most closely with the SDGs (as well as their own core business), because of the legitimacy of the process that went in to deciding on these global priorities.

Second, for individuals trying to get increased backing and buy-in internally for particular initiatives from colleagues internally across their businesses and value chains, if the initiative aligns with the SDGs, this is giving them extra confidence to really push what they're trying to do, and also helps a little with getting traction from colleagues. Also, I've heard some people talking about being able to access increased resources internally for existing initiatives, if the company is now making public statements about these initiatives being a contribution to the SDGs.

(Bhaskar Chakravorti) #43

How should business report its contributions?

There can be reports that use some standardized reporting format - many of which are already circulating in the ESG investing space. That said, I think the civil society stakeholders have to develop more sophisticated forms of data capture and analysis to identify what is actually being done. I would hate for this reporting system to spawn a new industry of pure score keeping, accounting and consulting. There is a risk of that happening and the rest of the society begins to get skeptical about the whole exercise. As it is there is quite a bit of skepticism because the project is so grand and so "UN-like". What I would suggest is that it is fine to be skeptical, but if you don't have a better solution, let's utilize the frameworks and structures we have got and think creatively and take action. The world is lurching in a dangerous direction and future generations have no reason to forgive us for the legacy we are handing to them.

Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Thanks for all the insights! Let's move on to our final set of questions:

Q3. What tools do businesses need to facilitate deeper engagement with the SDGs? How should business report its contributions to the SDGs to meet the expectations of government and civil society stakeholders?

(Hui Wen Chan) #44

Through their normal course of business, many companies are already contributing to the SDGs and reporting on their sustainability and citizenship activities and impact. To help companies align their SDG reporting to existing reporting standards, the SDG Compass has mapped the SDGs to the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)’s G4 indicators: GRI is the most widely adopted reporting standard.

Zahid Torres-Rahman said:

Thanks for all the insights! Let's move on to our final set of questions:

Q3. What tools do businesses need to facilitate deeper engagement with the SDGs? How should business report its contributions to the SDGs to meet the expectations of government and civil society stakeholders?

(Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi) #45

Agree with Bhaskar on the dangers of greenwashing - a clear risk if a laissez-faire approach prevails towards SDGs.

What businesses need to do is subject themselves to external measurements and benchmarks as a start. Transparency and verifiability of SDG contribution claims are key.

(Matthew Gitsham) #46

A tool that we've seen many businesses using is the 'SDG Compass', that was developed by the UN Global Compact, WBCSD and GRI together. It gives advice, among other things, on linked the SDGs with company goal-setting, and reporting. On reporting in particular, it maps the different SDG goals and targets against existing metrics (GRI and others) that companies are already using to report performance - so to give guidance about how to best report the company's contribution to the SDGs.

(Richard Gilbert) #47

On the question of reporting – I am getting a strong steer from companies that we should not be looking to create another layer of reporting complexity. Rather we should be looking to consolidate and align what currently exists. Companies will need to analyse current measurement indicators against SDG indicators and fill gaps where they exist – and this may require significant investment especially where businesses are going to need to build a base line and to measure improvements.

What I am hearing from non business stakeholders is that there isn’t an expectation that companies will report in detail country by country on the SDGs. Rather they need to be “choiceful” on what they report on. Companies should think about doing a materiality type analysis on where SDGs risks and opportunities are greatest and prioritise reporting accordingly in line with national development priorities.

A practical first step for companies is to engage in local indicator setting in higher priority countries where risks and opportunities are greatest.

(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #48

In addition to our current Challenge on this topic ("How can we embed the SDGs into business?"), which will produce a toolkit for business managers, we recently published a few other reports that people might find useful:

1. Business Fights Poverty NYC 2016: Summary Report - a summary of our recent event in New York on business collaborating to deliver the SDGs, including links to the event video

2. Business and the UN: Working Together Towards the SDGs

3. Business and the SDGs: Building Blocks for Success at Scale

(Matthew Gitsham) #49

On government stakeholders, one thing we've heard is some companies looking to understand how national governments are intending to link the SDGs with their own national development plans - once companies know this, they can then look for partnership opportunities around these national priorities.

(Zahid Torres-Rahman) #50

Thanks for joining everyone! That provides us with a great foundation for the discussion that will happen over the course of the day at the Inclusive Inc Unconference, being organised by the Institute of Business in the Global Context at the Fletcher School, Tufts University.

We will leave this discussion open - please continue to post your comments!

(Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi) #51

Thank you all for a lively conversation. Check out our case study series on Inclusive Business and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) here:

Also look out for our report on the Inclusive Innovators, coming soon here: