SDG Challenge 2019: Creating strategies for a better, more sustainable world

Canadian companies are starting to recognize the importance of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in their business strategies

SDG Challenge 2019

In our analysis of published reporting on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we found that while almost a third of Canadian companies surveyed mentioned the SDGs in their reports, many have yet to define specific targets. Of the sectors analyzed, financial services, consumer markets and energy and utilities led the way in opting for the SDGs. Climate action, decent work and economic growth and gender equality were the most frequently chosen SDGs. These were also the areas where companies believe they can have the greatest impact.

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The next 10 years are all about delivering the SDGs

It has been four years since the launch of the SDGs, a collection of 17 global objectives designed as a road map to a peaceful, equitable and just society to meet the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Without a doubt, the next 10 years will be critical for action. Companies that embrace the SDGs and show leadership in delivering on them will be most likely to win the support of stakeholders, including investors, regulators, consumers, employees and society in general.

This is why, in our third annual global SDG Challenge, we focus on understanding which global companies, including Canadian organizations, have embedded the goals in their strategy and the level of detail disclosed. Our snapshot shows that while many Canadian companies are starting to embed the goals in their reporting, there’s still a great deal of work to be done if they’re going to contribute meaningfully to the SDGs.

33% of Canadian companies mention the SDGs in their reporting

Almost one-third of companies publicly mentioned the SDGs in their reporting publications. Of the companies that mentioned the SDGs, 85% referenced them as part of their sustainability report, 26% mentioned them in their annual report, 26% referenced them in their CEO or Chair statements and 15% mentioned them in both their sustainability and annual reports. In addition, 14% mentioned the goals in sections of their reporting that discussed business strategy.

Companies in financial services, consumer markets and energy, resources and utilities lead the way on SDG reporting

Of the seven industry sectors considered, financial services (48%) companies led the pack in SDG reporting in Canada, followed by consumer markets (40%) and energy, resources and utilities (29%). Despite the connection between their sector and good health and well-being (SDG 3), companies in the health industry were least likely to mention the SDGs.

Climate action, decent work and economic growth and gender equality are at the top of the agenda

Selected by nearly one quarter of companies surveyed, the most frequently chosen SDGs were climate action (SDG 13), decent work and economic growth (SDG 8) and gender equality (SDG 5). These are areas where many Canadian companies believe they can have the biggest impact. They’re paying less attention to some goals, including zero hunger (SDG 2), life below water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15).

Companies prioritized six to seven SDGs on average

Canadian companies recognize the importance of focusing their efforts on a few select SDGs. Companies with SDG reporting prioritized, on average, six to seven SDGs rather than attempting to contribute to all 17 of the goals. This focus helps organizations manage and streamline their resources while contributing to the SDGs most aligned to their businesses.

SDG tips for business leaders

For those looking to get started on or elevate their SDGs, here are some tips to consider:

  • It needs to be core: Embed priority SDGs in the way you think about, plan and conduct business. Make them part of decision-making processes. Immerse them into the daily life of the organization, including in its culture, values, relationships and employee engagement. Link your purpose to the value you create across the people, planet and economic dimensions and articulate how this is contributing to specific SDG targets.

  • Embrace innovation: Look at sustainability through the lens of innovation. Use the SDGs as a value-creating framework that evolves your business and corporate strategy through sustainable innovation projects.

  • Remember to collaborate: Work with government, your industry, academics and other sectors to accelerate positive change and avoid duplication. Create alliances with a variety of sectors to amplify and extend your impact.

About the SDG Challenge

The SDG Challenge 2019 is a global PwC survey of 1,141 companies in 31 different countries. For Canada, we looked at the 2018 annual and sustainability reports of 81 publicly listed companies.

For more information on how your company can move the sustainable development agenda forward through SDG materiality mapping, strategy integration, target-setting, reporting and more, contact us today.

Contact us

Janice Noronha

Janice Noronha

Partner, Risk Assurance Services, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5693

Katerina Fragos

Katerina Fragos

Manager, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5011

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