Companies Need to Set More Ambitious Targets to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, Report Shows

Companies Need to Set More Ambitious Targets to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, Report Shows

With only ten years left to reach the Sustainable Development Goals, companies need to accelerate from decades of ambition to a Decade of Action.

UNITED NATIONS, New York – Today, on the occasion of its 20th-anniversary Leaders Summit, the United Nations Global Compact, in partnership with DNV GL, released a new report looking back on 20 years of corporate sustainability progress among its business participants. The UN Global Compact 20th-Anniversary Report: Uniting Business in the Decade of Action uses data from its annual survey of participants supported by interviews with participants from around the world. A review on progress made in embedding the Ten Principles into their operations and contributing to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was conducted as part of the research.

Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact.

The 20th-Anniversary Report reveals only 39% of companies surveyed believe they have targets that are sufficiently ambitious to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Less than a third consider their industry to be moving fast enough to deliver priority SDGs. While 84% of companies participating in the UN Global Compact are taking action on SDGs, only 46% are embedding them into their core business and only 37% are designing business models that contribute to the SDGs.

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Progress is uneven across the SDGs, the report finds, with many companies choosing to focus on Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production, Goal 13: Climate Action, and Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being. Meanwhile, less traction has been made in advancing the socially-focused SDGs such as reduced inequalities, gender equality, and peace, justice and strong institutions.

June 3, 2020: Black Lives Matter Protest in Washington D.C. Photo: Koshu Kunii.

Other key findings from the research include:

  • 61% of companies provide products and services that contribute to the SDGs (up from 48% in 2019).
  • 57% of companies are measuring the impact of their own operations relating to the SDGs but very few extend this to suppliers (13%), raw materials (10%) and into product use (10%).
  • Only 29% of companies publicly advocate the importance of action in relation to the SDGs (down from 53% in 2019).

Commenting on the report’s findings, Lise Kingo, CEO of the UN Global Compact, said, “With less than 4,000 days remaining until the 2030 target, the change we need to see in the Decade of Action will not happen through incremental improvements and adjustments to ‘business-as-usual.’

“Companies need to step-up and transform their business models to turn policy commitments into action that can lead to actual performance improvements. Now is the time for CEOs to speak up and ensure all companies fully integrate the Ten Principles and raise their SDG Ambition to meet the needs of society and the planet.”

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Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO, DNV GL said: “Our world has been rocked this past year. From the clamour of school children protesting the lack of action on the climate threat, to the disconcerting new normal of the pandemic and, most recently, the calls for justice and equality around the world.

“All of these developments remind us that the Sustainable Development Goals are not just ideals to aspire to, but that they are absolutely fundamental in creating a just society, with equal opportunity for all on a planet that is habitable. The report concludes that The Decade of Action requires all companies to take a deep look at where we are falling short and set industry-specific goals.”

Launched in 2000, the mandate of the UN Global Compact is to guide and support the global business community in advancing UN goals and values through responsible corporate practices. With more than 10,000 companies and 3,000 non-business signatories based in over 160 countries, and more than 60 Local Networks, it is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world.   

This media release was submitted by DNV GL. Cover image via United Nations.

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