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Businesses failing to hit SDG targets show little ambition for improvement


8 September 2021 at 5:06 pm
Nikki Stefanoff
To gain momentum on achieving the SDGs, businesses need to look beyond the easiest and simplest places for them to make contributions


Nikki Stefanoff | 8 September 2021 at 5:06 pm


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Businesses failing to hit SDG targets show little ambition for improvement
8 September 2021 at 5:06 pm

To gain momentum on achieving the SDGs, businesses need to look beyond the easiest and simplest places for them to make contributions

When it comes to the sustainable development goals (SDGs), most companies are failing to make significant changes – and show little ambition for improvement, a new report finds. 

The 17 SDGs sit at the heart of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – the shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet – and act as the signpost for how to drive change. 

There’s already been a lot written this year about how the global community is behind on achieving the UN’s agenda. Now, the SDG Insights Report 2021, published by B Lab Global, dives deeper into discovering why that is.  


Read more: Creating genuine change through SDG implementation

B Lab’s research was collected from self-reported information gathered from its SDG Action Manager, a tool to help all businesses (not just B Corps) map their SDG targets and measure the impact of their operations, supply chain and business model. 

The report showed that of the 1,700 companies it researched, most tended to concentrate their efforts on internal operations — supply chains and business models — rather than looking to the aspects of the business where change might be more challenging to achieve. 

Dan Osusky, head of standards and insights at B Lab Global, said that companies needed to direct their efforts towards the most strategic and impactful place they can contribute. Even though this might mean they need to look beyond what are the easiest and simplest places for them to make contributions. 

Businesses need to think more strategically 

The report warned that achieving the SDGs is “at risk of stagnation” and companies engaged with the SDG Action Manager showing little ambition for improvement – many did not set themselves any goals to help reach their SDG targets.  

Charlie Fraioli, senior standards analyst at B Lab global and co-author of the report, said the research demonstrated that when companies are getting around to setting improvement goals they are unlikely to focus on the more challenging areas of creating impact. 

“Despite a lot of talk around engagement, the action and performance is not strategic or bold enough to achieve the SDGs,” Fraioli said. 

“Individual company efforts need to go beyond marketing and reporting related to the SDGs, to actual change.”

Getting priorities right

The study also looked at companies’ priorities, performance and SDG ambition. 

It found that the SDGs that were most prioritised were: no poverty, decent work and economic growth, and responsible consumption and production. The least prioritised were quality education, life below water and life on land. 

And interestingly, the areas where companies are prioritising don’t always match where they’re performing best. Of the businesses that took part in the research most are contributing to no poverty, quality education, responsible consumption and production, and decent work and economic growth. With the least amount of contributions being driven towards life below water, clean water and sanitation, and affordable and clean energy. 

You can read the full report, here


Nikki Stefanoff  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Nikki Stefanoff is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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