Analyzing GRI reports points to progress in SDG integration.
A new study has revealed that four in five of the companies assessed now include a commitment in their sustainability reports to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), yet fewer than half set measurable targets for how their actions contribute towards fulfilling the Goals.
The publication from GRI and Support the Goals — State of Progress: Business Contributions to the SDGs — analyzes a sample of over 200 companies around the world that produced a GRI report in 2020. Key findings include:
- 83% of companies state that they support the SDGs, recognizing the value of aligning their reports with the Goals.
- 69% of companies articulate which Goals are most relevant to their business, with 61% specifying how their actions support the SDGs.
- 40% of companies set measurable commitments for how they will help achieve the SDGs, while 20% include evidence to assess their positive impacts.
The research highlights trends in SDG reporting, with recommendations on how companies can improve their communications and performance that include:
- Providing targets on how they support the SDGs, particularly for those that connect most closely to the companies activities, products, or business relationships.
- Deepen reporting on their positive contributions to the SDGs, while also responding to stakeholder demands for transparency on negative impacts.
- Make data on their SDG performance easily accessible by using internationally recognized frameworks, such as the GRI Standards.
- Collaborate on SDG reporting, sharing practices both up and down the value chain, while doing more to engage their suppliers in this important topic.
GRI Chief External Affairs Officer Peter Paul van de Wijs states:
“This study confirms the crucial role of sustainability reporting in enabling companies to explore how their actions impact the 2030 Agenda, while providing the transparency needed for governments and the international community to measure progress on the SDGs. It is encouraging, therefore, that we are seeing most GRI reporting companies commit to alignment with the SDGs.
The urgent next step is to ramp up the role of the private sector in contributing to solutions for fulfilling the goals, which requires more in-depth and quantifiable disclosure that links SDG performance with business strategy. Doing so not will only increase progress on the goals, but it can also unlock opportunities for innovation and collaboration.”
Colin Curtis, founder and director of Support the Goals, adds:
If we’re to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, every business needs to understand how they can contribute to them. It’s wonderful to see that the majority of businesses in our research are showing their support for the Goals. We now urgently need to see an increase in the number of businesses setting measurable targets that contribute to the SDGs, reporting on their progress and – crucially – helping their suppliers understand how they can get involved."
The study is based on a sample of 206 companies, analyzing their published GRI sustainability reports and information from their websites. It applies the Support the Goals methodology, with a “traffic light” system of ratings on SDG performance across key areas, with 1–5 star results given for overall performance. Results are provided geographically, by industry, and by turnover.
GRI thanks the Government of Sweden for their financial support of this publication, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).
Support the Goals is an initiative to reward businesses for supporting the UN Global Goals, composed of a team of volunteer researchers. The key objectives are to:
- Raise awareness of the SDGs in the business community
- Promote a structured approach to planning, target setting, and reporting with respect to the SDGs
- Give young people work experience in corporate sustainability, so they understand how business can contribute to a better world
GRI provides free resources and tools on SDG reporting. Recent publications include Linking the SDGs and the GRI Standards and Using Corporate Reporting to Strengthen the SDGs. A new podcast series from GRI – SDGs: The Rising Tide – is available now.