An analysis by PwC of over 1000 published reports from listed, private and public sector organisations, highlights that with only ten years to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), there is a great deal of work to be done if business is to contribute meaningfully to national efforts.
PwC’s annual assessment of public reporting on the SDGs assesses the level of integration of the goals into leadership, business strategy and reporting, as an indicator of business’ vital contribution to achieving government’s stated commitments within the next ten years.
It’s now four years since the Sustainable Development Goals were unanimously ratified by all 193 UN Members states as a universal framework for more sustainable ways of living and operating.
While governments around the world have the ultimate responsibility for delivering on the goals, they cannot be achieved without the support of business.
Globally nearly three quarters (72%), and in South Africa 77%, of organisations analysed reference the goals in their public reporting. However, only 1% (global sample) and 2% (South African sample) reported quantitative measures to show their progress towards the related underlying targets.
Despite good overall awareness, progress on the SDGs could be undermined by a lack of specifics on targets, measurement, and wider business integration.
Reporting progress towards the targets needed to achieve the ambitions is immature, despite the goals offering a common language and framework to build a more transparent view of the issues, progress and scale of change needed.
Of the South African companies analysed:
- Only 38% of those that mentioned the SDGs (i.e. 29% of the South African companies analysed), did so in sections of their reporting that discussed business strategy.
- Just over one in five leaders referenced the SDGs in their outlook for the year – an proxy to demonstrate whether the goals are moving into the forward-looking boardroom agenda.
- Eight companies mention specific SDG targets: of those, two identify qualitative ambitions, and two quantitative ambitions.
- The majority of companies identify with the goal of Decent Work & Economic Growth as their focus, but goals related to natural resources or wellbeing, critical to sustaining business, feature less prominently.
Jayne Mammatt, South Africa Lead on Sustainable Development Goals, PwC says:
“While awareness is high, unless integrated measurement and reporting takes place, progress and relevant policy measures can’t be identified at the level of detail necessary to really drive progress on reaching the goals.
“Companies are starting to prioritise goals they believe are relevant to them, but we’ve little evidence of joined up thinking on how the goals are approached. Goals related to water, land and energy have strategic opportunities and risks for almost every sector, yet are not widely identified as considerations in future business strategies and investments.
“The goals are practical. They are both a risk and opportunity management framework from businesses’ point of view. While companies don’t need to specifically reference goals to be acting on them, we should be seeing the identification of issues that underpin them and strategies to address them at scale, and unfortunately we’re not.”