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Firms urged to keep working towards sustainability goals

Firms urged to keep working towards sustainability goals

Firms urged to keep working towards sustainability goals

Climate change and the human race's impact on the environment remain major issues for the business community, with consumers, regulators and governments putting growing pressure on organisations of all sizes to improve their green standards.

Despite this, recent research has suggested that progress towards achieving the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be slowing. Does this mean companies need to renew their focus on long-term sustainability?

Are too many companies 'doing nothing'?

Launched in September 2015, the UN's SDGs are a set of 17 objectives "to transform our world".

They include:

- Affordable and clean energy
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Climate action
- Clean water and sanitation
- Responsible consumption and production

The UN stressed that everyone - including private businesses, governments, civil society and individuals - must play their part to help make the sustainable development agenda a reality.

Two years on, however, concerns are being raised that action to achieve these goals is slowing, particularly among businesses.

Corporate Citizenship, a global management consultancy that specialises in sustainability and corporate responsibility, released a report showing how business attitudes and strategies have changed in the past two years.

Encouragingly, the proportion of organisations that were unaware of the SDGs dropped from 16 per cent in 2015, to six per cent in 2016, to just one per cent this year.

However, a fifth (20 per cent) of companies said they were aware of the SDGs but had no plans to do anything about them. That figure is down from two years ago (25 per cent), but significantly up on last year (13 per cent).

One in three organisations (33 per cent) are actively involved in a collaboration related to the SDGs, compared to 40 per cent in 2016, the survey found.

Corporate Citizenship senior consultant and report author Nana Guar said: "Two years on from the launch of the goals, there are signs that corporate progress may be slowing.

"We've seen lots of welcoming announcements and reporting aligned to the SDGs. But the real challenge comes in application. The critical success factor is for businesses to now translate intent into action."

Turning words into action
The majority of businesses will be willing to commit to improving their environmental performance and achieving a sustainable future, but there is a big difference between words and action.

Richard Hardyment, director of research at Corporate Citizenship, made this point in a blog post to follow up the research. He pointed out that there are different courses of action businesses can take, one of which is internally reviewing strategies and coming up with new initiatives, such as innovative products or employee volunteering programmes.

Only 13 per cent of the largest UK firms participating in the survey had publicly disclosed this sort of activity.

Alternatively, companies can look externally and seek to form partnerships with others to achieve change. One in three global respondents to the study were currently involved in a collaboration related to the SDGs.

Whatever approach businesses choose to take, it's clear that strong, collaborative action will be required by all sorts of organisations all over the world to create a truly sustainable future.

 

Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of iStock/Man As Thep