Can Benchmarking Turbo-Charge companies on the SDGs?

Dec 13, 2017 | Blogs

Corporate Citizenship’s latest webinar unveiled some sobering statistics from our third practitioner survey on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The standout headline was that corporate action is stalling. Reflecting on our previous two research reports, awareness of the Goals in 2017 is at an all-time high, however inaction has also risen, suggesting appetite may be dwindling.

From our findings and current work with clients, co-founder Mike Tuffrey reflected that this may be interpreted as a “pause for breath”. Many companies have done the “easy part” of getting their heads around the SDGs, mapping their activities and strategies to the 17 Global Goals. However the business opportunity has not become fully apparent for all. Some are still waiting for national governments to make the next move (and many have been slow). What is clear is that ambition is not translating into firm targets or KPIs, and companies aren’t embracing new approaches to engagement or partnerships many had hoped for in 2015.

Webinar guests, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), a global public institute set up with Aviva to benchmark companies on the SDGs, suggested benchmarking to date must be collaborative and that business models need to be more inclusive to facilitate this. The WBA aims to be a driver for positive change, benchmarking companies on their corporate performance to encourage action at a corporate level rather than just a government one. With little guidance on navigating the 230 individual indicators to monitor the 17 goals and 169 targets of the SDGs, benchmarking could prove to be exactly what companies need to revitalise momentum and bridge the gap between thinking and action. Benchmarking is a good way to establish a baseline and facilitate guidance for companies to gauge their performance against peers. Whilst this could be viewed as a competitive sport, a ‘race to the top’, companies must be cautious to avoid ‘gaming the system’ of focusing on their ranking rather than genuine performance improvements. The process behind the benchmark must be rooted in a clear business case that recognises the material risks and opportunities of the each Global Goal and their implications for a company’s short and long-term value.Challenged on our webinar about what role companies had to play, the WBA commented that governments cannot do this alone. With twelve short years to go and only three years in, reluctance and slow adoption are evident. Now is the time for corporates, in the words of our first SDGs report, to move ‘From My World to Our World’.

Full details of the webinar discussion can be found here.

Read our latest SDGs research report Accelerating Corporate Leadership on the Global Goals.