UK 'among best nations globally' for SDG alignment

Although global progress towards the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) remains insufficient to meet the 2030 deadline, the UK is among the nations leading the way on alignment and, as such, is a prime market for impact investment.

The UK received top scores on several Goals, including SDGs relating to sanitation, energy access and renewable energy

The UK received top scores on several Goals, including SDGs relating to sanitation, energy access and renewable energy

That is according to a new analysis from Refinitiv. The financial markets giant published a benchmark late last week, ranking nations on their progress to date on aligning policy frameworks and private sector action with the Global Goals.

Country SDG scores were calculated by assessing data relating to each of the SDGs’ sub-targets and indicators available in Datastream – Refinitiv’s macroeconomic database. Across the framework, there are 242 indicators. Data regarding national policy frameworks, private and public sector investment, and real-world progress since 2015, were assessed.

The UK scored nine out of a possible ten. This makes it the second-best nation assessed, behind only Norway, which scored 9.25. The Norwegian Government was one of the early adopters of the SDGs and outlined initial plans for alignment in 2016. It has reported on progress annually ever since, with Norway’s Agency for Development Cooperation holding primary responsibility for calculations, reporting and policy recommendations.

Refinitiv’s analysis saw the UK receiving top marks for SDGs 2: Zero Hunger; 3: Good Health & Wellbeing; 6: Clean Water and Sanitation and 7: Affordable and clean energy. Its worst score was against SDG 1: No Poverty, in which it scored just three points out of a possible ten.

Refinitiv intends for the benchmark to be used by investors looking to shift to impact investing or to embed stronger ESG requirements into their approach. Numerous pieces of research have concluded that these trends will continue to accelerate in the coming years, following an initial spike in interest shortly after Covid-19 was first declared a pandemic.

Aite Group’s senior analyst Wally Okby said the methodology behind Refinitiv’s benchmark “will help unleash a new level of ESG data clarity and standardization across the industry”.

Funding gap

With the UN having repeatedly warned that global progress towards the broad SDG agenda is insufficient, several efforts have been made to bridge the funding gap. The World Bank raising €1.5bn for a new 10-year bond for the SDGs is one of the largest-scale initiatives.

Similarly, a coalition of private and public sector organisations was formed earlier this year with the purpose of funnelling $500m into projects delivering tangible contributions to the SDG agenda in developing nations.

The launch of Refinitiv’s benchmark comes at a pivotal moment, when many nations are finalising the specifics of how they plan to allocate their Covid-19 stimulus packages or are planning to launch sovereign bonds, and when many private investors are re-thinking their approach to risk.

It also comes shortly after Refinitiv updated its own sustainability strategy to align with the SDGs. The framework seems to be gaining traction in the finance sector; Credit Suisse has also aligned its strategy with the Global Goals while HSBC recently launched a dedicated natural capital project aiming to drive progress towards Goals including SDG 15: Life on Land.


Learn more about SDG alignment with edie's Business Blueprint

Sustainability and CSR professionals looking to embed the SDGs within their organisation's strategy now have access to a comprehensive new report breaking down exactly how businesses of all sizes and sectors can contribute to all 17 Global Goals.

Hosted in association with UK Power Networks Services, the free report combines up-to-date facts and stats with expert insight and real-life case studies, breaking down everything there is to know about each of the Goals. Download and read the report here.


Sarah George



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