Accounting bodies call for better disclosure on business SDG accountability

Leading accounting bodies have called for better corporate disclose on efforts to align reporting with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), with a new report calling on organisations to disclose negative contributions in order to deliver change.

Accounting bodies call for better disclosure on business SDG accountability

The Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations report notes that the Global Goals align well with key reporting frameworks such as the Taskforce on Climate-related Disclosure, the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Framework and should be used as such to showcase contributions and negative impacts.

The report has been published by global accountancy bodies – International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the World Benchmarking Alliance and has been endorsed by the Director of SDG Impact from the United Nations Development Programme (UN-DP). 

Report author Professor Carol Adams said: “There is increasing awareness in both business and investment communities that the health and wellbeing of the planet and its people impact on the longer-term success of business. 

“The SDGs offer an opportunity to collaborate and address this. A change in what and how business is done is essential to the achievement of the SDGs.  Key to driving change is the requirement for a statement from the Board Chair that the Board accepts responsibility for the SDG Disclosures in the annual report.”

It is hoped that the recommendations report will drive a sense of accountability for the SDGs across corporates. While businesses to date have badged the goals to highlight positive contributions to a selection of the 17 Goals that are of material importance, the new report argues that businesses should understand and report on accountabilities in relation to value destruction and negative impacts.

National contributions

Last week, business giants such as Nando’s, Nestle, PwC joined forces with RSPB, WWF and other charities to launch an action plan aimed at strengthening government performance against the SDGs by driving private sector collaboration.

Convened through the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD), the business giants have developed a plan that focuses on getting the right structures and processes in government, including a brief for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and driving collaboration to deliver systems change.

It was in response to the UKSSD’s Measuring Up report, released in July 2019, which found that of the 143 targets considered relevant to the domestic delivery of the SDGs, the UK is only performing well on 24% of its targets. According to the UKSSD, policy gaps or inadequate performance were listed alongside 57% of the targets, while 15% had “little to no policy in place” to address them.

Commenting on the new report, the World Benchmarking Alliance’s executive director Gerbrand Haverkamp said: “Without companies aligning their business models and operations with the SDGs – they simply won’t be achieved. We, therefore, need to work together in translating scientific and societal expectations into clear reporting guidance for companies.

“This will create the data the World Benchmarking Alliance and others can use to assess and rank corporate performance in a manner that is transparent and free for everyone to see.” 

Matt Mace

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