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This month marks one year since the release of the now well publicised Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UN has also recently published a range of global, universal indicators to measure and monitor progress against each goal. These indicators, presented on a country level are now available for companies to utilise in their own reporting.
However, will this disclosure of data from the UN, governments and research institutes bring about a data revolution for sustainable development? The UN Data Revolution Report hopes it will, but to realise this opportunity, the private sector needs to improve their own data accessibility, comparability and availability regarding the SDGs as well.
That’s where your next corporate sustainability report comes in. Currently, just over one in 10 FTSE 100 companies report on the alignment of their corporate sustainability commitments with the SDGs. If the SDGs are to be a success, we expect that number to grow.
More corporates will need to determine which of the 17 Global Goals are most material to their businesses, by mapping them against their current strategic focus areas and report disclosures. Additional key performance indicators may be needed where gaps exist and companies will need to be able to track and report both positive and negative impacts to show their contribution to achieving the SDGs.
However, simply mapping and measuring the impact of corporate sustainability initiatives towards individual SDGs will not be enough. Once data and information has been collected and analysed, the impact needs to be reported in an effective manner. And the nature of the SDGs means that often one goal can encompass multiple economic, social and environmental aspects.
Moreover, there are several overarching links between the different goals, where impacts in one area will have influenced impacts and progress in another. Therefore as corporate sustainability reports evolve to account for the SDGs, it will be important to clearly demonstrate cumulative effects on progress that may be a result of several different SDG impacts.
Responding to and demonstrating a holistic contribution towards the SDGs will present a challenge for many organisations. However, interest in aligning corporate sustainability reports to the Global Goals is likely to continue to gather pace, with enhanced expectations of how and what an organisation discloses. It will be fascinating to see how the next wave of sustainability reports respond to the challenge.