Business must address ‘timid action’ to achieve SDGs

One year on from the launch of the United Nation's (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), new research has found that a majority of companies have been too slow to take tangible action.

A study from global sustainability consultancy Corporate Citizenship highlights that most companies have failed to move beyond initial planning stages to build upon an increased business awareness of the SDGs in the past year. Research findings show that building partnerships with government, investors and suppliers will be critical to accelerate progress on the objectives.

Corporate Citizenship co-founder Mike Tuffrey commented: “We have seen lots of announcements ‘recognising’ the Goals. A growing number of companies are mapping their strategies retrospectively to the Goals. It’s a good start.

“But what we haven’t yet seen is much evidence of companies taking to heart all 17 goals and asking searching questions internally about the changes needed to respond to the challenge they present – how we innovate, who we employ, what we sell, where we raise our finance, when to work with Governments and, ultimately, whether our business models are sustainable for a 2030 world.”


The research also reveals a “trust-deficit” between the expectations of millennials and the realities of business action when it comes to solving the world’s most pressing social, environmental and economic challenges.

In order to address these issues, the study suggests that more companies need to consider the SDGs as a business opportunity to build trust with stakeholders, accelerate innovation on products and services that address societal concerns while building future resilience.

According to Corporate Citizenship’s global survey of more than more than 250 young people, 81% of millennials believe that the private sector has a very important role to play in achieving the SDGs. This reflects a wider belief among millennials that companies must take the lead in solving the world’s most pressing challenges and transform the way commerce is conducted.

Digitial natives

The one-year anniversary since the launch of the SDGs has led to heightened scrutiny of what businesses will have to do in order to champion a global movement to fulfil the goals. The research follows a recent report which found that leveraging the power of connectivity and digitalisation will be key to achieving the SDGs, with the “fruits of the fourth industrial revolution” inspiring large-scale action.

Corporate Citizenship’s report builds on the rhetoric that businesses should do more to drive the sustainability agenda by embracing the willingness of the first “digital natives and a globally empathetic generation”.

A recent panel discussion convened by the Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (ICRS) unanimously agreed that organisations from across the public and private sectors should do more to expand the capacity of corporate responsibility and sustainability job markets, by looking beyond graduates and in-house employees to broaden engagement and leadership skills.

A recent survey from global professional services company Accenture found that a strong consumer demand in new products and services from millennials will create a significant amount of value for energy providers who embrace the younger generations.

George Ogleby

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