While awareness of the SDGs has grown, sustainability consultancy Corporate Citizenship warns that tangible plans and partnerships on the global goals has stalled.

An annual study of the world’s largest companies, many of which operate in the UK, shows that 20% are “aware of the SDGs, but have no plans to do anything about them”. This is a 4% rise on last year, and close to the 25% recorded before the goals were launched.

Meanwhile, the number of companies “actively involved” in collaborations linked to the SDGs has fallen to one-third, down 7% from last year. The amount of firms that say they will use the goals to “review or set new targets” and “inform strategy development” has also dropped.

“Two years on from the launch of the Goals, there are signs that corporate progress may be slowing,” said Corporate Citizenship senior consultant and report author Nana Guar.

“We’ve seen lots of welcoming announcements and reporting aligned to the SDGs. But the real challenge comes in application. The critical success factor is for businesses to now translate intent into action.”

Action gap

This is the latest in a line of reports suggesting that many in the business community are failing to take sufficient action on the SDGs. A recent UN Global Compact study found that more than one-third of the 9,000 participating businesses still haven’t set any measurable targets two years on from the launch of the goals, while only 55% are monitoring progress. 

Some experts have stressed that a “strong appetite” to address the within some companies is being hindered by a lack of engagement and understanding in mid-management and employees.

Nevertheless, Corporate Citizen’s research paints a brighter picture for impact monitoring and measurement, with 56% respondents indicating plans for the future, up from 35% when the goals launched.

Goal priorities have shifted in line with the political climate, the study finds. While gender equality (goal 5) and sustainable cities and communities (goal 11) lead the way in 2017, climate action (goal 13) has dropped out of the top three. Researchers say this reflects the high profile given to the Paris Agreement in 2016.

UK businesses are cited as leading the world on the SDGs. More than two-thirds of the FTSE100 have integrated the goals in some form through their corporate communications, in comparison to 38% and 20% of the largest US and Singapore companies respectively.

Sustainability coaching firm Jade Advisory’s director Carolina Karlstrom shared her knowledge and expertise on how to embed the SDGs in to a company’s CSR strategy in a recent edie Masterclass. You can view that Masterclass on-demand for free here.

George Ogleby

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