PwC’s SDG Challenge 2019

Creating a strategy for a better world: How the Sustainable Development Goals can provide the framework for business to deliver progress on our global challenges.

In our largest analysis of published reporting on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to date, we explored over 1,000 company reports to find out how businesses are engaging with the SDGs. The results suggest that, while there is a general acknowledgement of the importance of the goals, there is room for more concrete action to take place in support of the SDGs if the SDGs are to be achieved by 2030.

At PwC, we’re committed to helping you engage with and embed the SDGs into strategy and operations. With that in mind, we took a look at business engagement with the SDGs, integration into strategy and top level support.



of companies mentioned the SDGs in their reporting

Source: PwC SDG Challenge 2019


of companies included the SDGs in their published business strategy


of CEO or Chair statements include reference to the SDGs


of companies mentioned specific SDG targets

Explore the themes

Business engagement and integration

Nearly three quarters of the companies (72%) considered in our study publicly mentioned the SDGs in their reporting publications. Of the companies that mentioned the SDGs, 59% referenced them as part of their sustainability report while just over half (51%) mentioned them in their annual report. However, just 34% of those that mentioned the SDGs (25% of all companies analysed), did so in sections of their reporting that discussed business strategy.

Executive leadership

Over a fifth (21%) of the companies we analysed made specific mention of the SDGs in the CEO or Chair statement (up from 13% in 2018) – indicating that the goals are moving up the executive agenda. This could be prompted by regulation, growing investor pressure or forward thinking strategy.

The focus on individual goals

Of the companies we analysed, 65% mentioned specific SDGs. Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG8) is the most popular goal identified by business (as it has been for the last two years).

Adopting an SDG target-based approach

From our point of view, how companies are focusing on the 169 targets that underpin the 17 goals is a good indication of whether they’re integrating the goals into business strategy. This year’s findings indicate that only 14% (157 companies) mentioned specific SDG targets. Of those, 39% are setting qualitative ambitions and 20% are setting quantitative ambitions. Only 8% are reporting quantitative measures to show their progress towards targets (which is only 1% of all the companies we analysed).


68% of family businesses had a documented vision and purpose, or mission statement, for their company

69% expected or encouraged the next generations they hire to gain experience outside the family business

More than a third of family business leaders said they would consider private equity


75% felt having a clear set of values created a competitive advantage. But only 49% had values written down

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Business leaders tips for success with the SDGs

It needs to be core

Companies interested in meeting SDGs can embed priority SDGs in the way they you think about, plan and conduct business, including making them part of decision-making processes and embedding them into the organisation – its culture, values, relationships and employee engagement. Companies can link their purpose to the value they 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. Businesses can use the SDGs as a value-creating framework that evolves their business and corporate strategy through sustainable innovation projects.

Remember to collaborate

Companies can work with government, the industry, academics, and other sectors to accelerate positive change and avoid duplication. Creating alliances with multiple and interdisciplinary sectors can amplify and extend companies’ impacts.


Why the SDGs are important to business?

"Time is running out, the world has to follow our example and move from words to measurable facts."

Ignacio Sánchez Galán, President and CEO, Iberdrola, S.A.


"The SDGs are very important, and they must be immersed in the company’s strategy. Understanding them, knowing how to achieve the targets, integrating them into management decisions, and measuring progress towards them, is crucial. We think the achievement of the SDGs relies on not making them a requirement nor a trend, but involving them in the dynamics of the organisation."

Maria Isabel Cárdenas, Sustainability Director, Cementos Argos S.A.

"Today, many of our shareholders have questions on ESG matters, and SDGs are part of that conversation. I believe that the SDGs will become an increasingly significant part of that conversation over the coming 12 months"

Frank Heisterkamp, Director of Capital Markets & ESG, CRH Plc

"This year has been a real wake up call on a number of challenges that the SDGs seek to address. It's increasingly urgent for business to engage with these issues. It's encouraging to see that many are already taking steps to integrate them. But we really need a step change in the scale and depth of business engagement"

Louise ScottDirector, Global Sustainability, PwC UK
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Contact us

Alan McGill

Alan McGill

Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0) 20 721 24348

Louise Scott

Louise Scott

Chief Operating Officer, Global Sustainability, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7734 958 942