Governments have agreed new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to achieve, but how ready is business to help them achieve them? What’s their intention and their vision? Will they be business as usual or business critical?
In an ideal world, every business would know how their activities and the consequences of them (even the unforeseen elements), map across to the SDGs. Their operations would have identified, valued and be measuring how they contribute to each global goal, monitoring their impact, and implementing new ideas to effect improvement. SDG impact awareness wouldn’t be confined to a specific showcase project, but be embedded in a new way of working that prioritises the impact on global goals alongside its business objectives.
PwC surveyed business (and citizens) to get their perspective on awareness and plans for the launch of the SDGs. We wanted to understand their vision too.
1) Awareness: SDG awareness amongst the business community is high (92%) compared to the general population (33% Citizens aware of SDGs)
2) Responsibility: Government is seen as having prime responsibility to achieve the SDGs by business and citizens alike (49% Business responders and 44% citizens ranked government first (before business and society))
3) Action: Business has already started to take action - despite only 10% business participants ranking business with prime responsibility:
4) Gaps: There are distinct gaps in how to go about it, especially in areas where tough decisions are required:
5) Optimism: We should be optimistic that engagement will increase by 2020:
6) Significance: Citizens may have only a limited awareness of the SDGs but quickly recognised their significance:
What are the implications for business and for achieving the global goals? Close to the business community, our results analysis has identified interesting insights:
Business see their greatest impact and opportunity in areas that will help drive their own business growth. When business profits from solving social problems, when it makes profit while benefitting society and business performance simultaneously, it creates solutions that are scalable. Should we question the motives of business if their activity and ingenuity works to benefit of society? Enlightened self-interest focused on the SDGs could generate tangible results.
It’s clear that business doesn’t intend to assess its impact across all the SDGs, its plan is to look at those relevant to their business or a sub set of these. How will they choose? It’s less about picking the easiest, most obvious or positive ones, and more about picking the ones that are material to the business or have the greatest negative impact.
Some SDGs don’t make it onto the radar – business doesn’t register they have an impact on them or see an opportunity. If business ‘cherry picks’ a small number of SDGs, some SDGs eg. SDG 14 (Life below water) will have few business driven initiatives to make change.
Citizens get the significance of the SDGs – these are business’ employees and customers. It’s a reason for business to take action and gives credibility to the business case.
Citizens and corporates won’t be focused on the same things. Business doesn’t see opportunity where citizens see importance – SDG 13 (Climate action) is the only SDG that features in the top five for both.
What business is saying about the SDGs ….
“We will study and understand the SDGs and how they have touch points and impacts on our organisation. As a socially responsible organisation, we will respond to the SDGs and apply ourselves and implement those that (1) impact the business and (2) can be most effectively implemented for the common good. A focus on local communities around the operations will be the point of departure for selected SDGs.”
“Fundamentally, businesses need much more support in areas including collaboration, inclusiveness, partnership building, effective communication, and the recognition/elimination of racism in all of its forms. In most respects, understanding the benefits of 'Long-Termism' as an indispensable element of the business approach that supports SDGs ... The concept of ‘Alignment of Interests’ is also a vital aspect that traditionally businesses have struggled to support their business objectives.”
“[We need] clarity on the regulatory and legal roadmap Governments plan to implement to support the SDGs. Businesses want as much certainty in their business environments so that they can plan their contributions and how they impact the SDGs. Too much uncertainty and variability in the regulatory and legal regimes increases business risk and stifles innovation and longer term thinking.”