Report: SDG alignment generated $233bn in business revenue last year
By moving to embed the aims of the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their sustainability strategies, 13 of the world's biggest corporates have collectively generated $233bn of revenue.
That is the key finding of a new report from financial assessment firm Trucost, which analysed the benefits that the 13 companies had reaped from taking SDG-aligned actions across their value chains, from raw material sourcing to product and packaging disposal.
Covering firms such as technology giant HP, health and beauty chain Walgreens Boots Alliance and energy firms Iberdrola and Ørsted, Trucost’s analysis reveals that the 13 companies collectively generated around $233bn of 'SDG-aligned' business revenues in 2017.
Given that the companies collectively record annual revenues of $266bn, this figure accounts for as much as 87% of each firm’s individual revenue.
The analysis was conducted with the help of Trucost’s newly-developed SDG evaluation tool, which aims to assess whether a company has achieved “holistic” alignment with the SDGs, based on its sector and location.
The tool takes into account the extent to which an organisation is exposed to SDG-related risks; the actions it has taken to mitigate negative impacts on society and the environment; the positive contributions it has made to the SDGs and whether its approach is balanced.
Developed with expertise from the likes of the London School of Economics, the UN Global Compact and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the tool was trialled on 34 companies before being released on Monday (5 November).
Aside from generating raw revenue, TruCost’s managing director and global head of corporate business Libby Bernick explained that the tool was designed to help businesses identify SDG-aligned business value, prioritise risks and opportunities and update their sustainable growth strategies.
"Working with a diverse range of companies and market specialists has enabled us to develop a robust framework to assess SDG-aligned business value so that it is comparable across business activities and regions," Bernick said.
"We are grateful for the collaboration of our program participants in helping to address growing demand for holistic SDG metrics to meet the decision-making needs of investors, company boards, and other market participants."
The 13 companies to have been analysed in the report are Walgreens Boots Alliance, Tarkett, Spectrum Brands Holdings, S&P Global, Rockwool Group, Ingersoll Rand, HP, CLP Holdings, Arm, AMD, Aguas Andinas, Iberdrola and Ørsted
SDG stumbling blocks
Since the unveiling of the framework in 2015, 193 countries, 9000 companies and investors with more than $4 trillion in assets have pledged their support to the SDGs.
But as more and more businesses move to align with all or some of the Global Goals, recent research by KPMG found that companies are still struggling to achieve boardroom buy-in for action on the SDGs due to a lack of available metrics for tracking progress against their aims.
In other words, despite recent studies suggesting that as much as $12trn and 380 million jobs could be generated by 2030 if the SDGs are placed at the heart of global economic strategies, case studies proving the specific benefits of adopting each and all of the Goals at a business level is rare.
Similarly, PwC has found that two-fifths of businesses are still failing to engage meaningfully with the SDGs, while the UN Global Compact has concluded that the private sector is failing to follow through on commitments.
These findings, compounded by the UK Stakeholders for Sustainable Development’s (UKSSD) claims that the nation is only performing well on 24% of targets considered relevant to the domestic delivery of the Goals, spurred the UK Government to launch its first review into business performance against the SDGs earlier this year.