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Why aren’t more companies Integrating the SDGs into Corporate Governance?

Article By Alison Gross for Daintree Advisory

The United Nations Global Compact created a Practical Guide for companies to use to advance their Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Finding it is not easy, but once located and reviewed, it’s clear that this is a blueprint for any company to use to integrate the SDGs into their business strategy. The option of taking the easy route by listing the things that a company is currently doing that aligns with sustainable development is placed on the table and resolutely smashed to the floor. This is a hands-on guide to integrating the SDGs into a company’s corporate reporting and decisively driving change.

The guide is split into three practical steps:

  • Defining and prioritizing SDG targets for the company and setting goals,

  • Measuring and analyzing the company’s progress on those goals, and

  • Reporting and implementing the changes

Corporate reporting itself is not the goal, instead it is the outward face of the work, the tool that demonstrates the company’s strategy to investors, vendors, customers and regulators.

That strategy should include:

  • Attracting investment to enable growth in support of the SGD initiatives

  • Planning for innovation

  • Engaging all stakeholders

In looking at the Sustainable Development Goals from a company’s perspective the primary responsibility is risk mitigation. The risks to people and the environment that are linked to its operations and value chains that might be impacted negatively. On the positive side, the company’s products, services and investments might help them in achieving the SDGs by applying their knowledge, skills and other capabilities to benefit people and the environment.

Consumers increasingly demand sustainable products and services and base their choices on the assessment of corporate sustainability information, including information on how the company embraces the SDGs. The guide gives practical advice on the interconnectedness of the SDG’s and presents a case study of a fashion company by identifying the following priorities:

Sustainable decision-making processes should be an integral component of the business at all levels of a company to drive better performance and value creation. Internal reporting to company management and the board is useful for resource allocation and for driving compliance and transparency. SDG reporting should be used as a basis for supporting informed decision-making and to stimulate innovation and help a company design products and services that will contribute to achieving the SDGs.

Noemie Bauer, Head of Sustainable Business, Pernod-Ricard says, “When we first started, we went from 17 SDGs, to support and act upon 14 SDGs where we identified impacts — either positive or negative — throughout our value chain. At Pernod Ricard, we believe that any negative impact can be transformed into a positive impact! This prioritization process was made possible by reviewing the 834 business indicators of the SDG Compass guide for business and getting key internal departments involved. Today, we are going even further by building a new sustainability strategy based on the SDGs and prioritizing even further the SDGs where we have the most impact.”

External reporting to shareholders and external stakeholders contributes to their constructive engagement in a company’s overall performance by encouraging two-way communication with the company and providing an environment of transparency and approachability for stakeholder engagement.

Annette Stube, Head of Sustainability, A.P. Moller - Maersk says, “Our reporting on material sustainability issues, targets, and progress is validated with relevant stakeholders across our organization, as well as anchored and reviewed by members of executive management to ensure relevant broad and high-level engagement.”

Company commitment to the SDGs will be the key driver for the success of the global goals and companies need to reach their ambitious targets by 2030. The creativity, knowhow, technology and financial resources from all of society is necessary to achieve the SDGs in every context. Companies should be looking for strategic opportunities to collaborate with peers and others to leverage resources, advocate business responsibility, establish sectoral objectives and initiatives or spread the implementation costs of actions to advance the SDGs. This Practical Guide, built by the United Nations Global Compact, GRI, together with Shift and PWC lays out a clear path.

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