On 17 and 18 July, high-level representatives from United Nations member states, inter-governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, gathered in New York to discuss how to ‘eradicate poverty and promote prosperity in a changing world’.
This annual gathering of the United Nations’ high-level political forum (HLPF) is organized under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council, to monitor yearly progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. As part of the annual review process, UN member states are encouraged to conduct voluntary country-level analyses of the actions taken to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This year, 43 countries presented their voluntary national reviews (VNRs) to the HLPF. GRI took this opportunity to investigate how the private sector in particular has been included in these reviews, and in the national-level implementation of the SDGs. Here we present a quick overview of three emerging trends on the private sector role in the 2030 Agenda.
Involvement in SDG planning and implementation
Countries are increasingly acknowledging the significant role companies can play to help meet the SDGs. This was the most encouraging trend observed in our analysis of the 43 reports, which showed that 93% of the countries had consulted the private sector in reviewing their national strategy and progress on the SDGs. In addition, 68% of the reports also recognized private investment as a crucial alternative means to complement public expenditure on the SDGs, and 43% of the reports stated efforts made by the country to develop more public-private partnerships on SDG implementation.
Specific country-level initiatives
Among the countries participating in the VNRs, several highlighted concrete actions undertaken with the private sector for achieving the SDGs. Denmark, for instance, included a chapter in the report written by businesses themselves; Sweden cited the development of a special national policy for CSR and reporting; and Luxembourg developed a national platform to exchange information and knowledge and created an inventory of SDG-related actions. A similar national platform has also been implemented by Brazil and Bangladesh. These country-specific initiatives serve as good examples of practices that can be taken up in different national contexts in the coming future to accelerate SDG progress.
Corporate social responsibility and SDG Target 12.6
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability reporting were mentioned in 59% of the voluntary national reviews when referring to private sector involvement with the SDGs. This is a good indication of success towards SDG Target 12.6 which “encourages companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle”. The VNRs show that Member States are increasingly recognizing the significance of Target 12.6 to help monitor and plan SDG implementation through systematic, comparable and transparent corporate reporting.
Businesses too are showing a rapidly growing interest in the SDGs and corporate reporting, with a view to mitigating future risks and availing new opportunities. This was clear from the sizeable attendance of over 1000 participants at the SDG Business Forum at the UN HLPF this year – an outsized demand that prompted organizers to move the event to the well-known colossal UN General Assembly hall.
Representing GRI at the SDG Business Forum was Deputy Chief Executive Teresa Fogelberg, who presented the first output – Business Reporting on the SDGs: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets – of GRI and the UN Global Compact’s groundbreaking Action Platform for Reporting on the SDGs. "This unique and pioneering platform aims to power business engagement on the SDGs. We are creating a mechanism for companies to report on their impacts and contributions on the SDGs and we presente the HLPF. We are currently finalizing this document with UN Global Compact and developing a handbook on leadership and best practices in SDG reporting. We look forward to presenting these at the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit on 21 September 2017," explained Ms. Fogelberg.
View more information on the Business Reporting on the SDGs and its upcoming outputs.
Also check out GRI’s SDG Target 12.6 Live Tracker, built in collaboration with Tata Consultancy Services. This online platform allows you to visually monitor the uptake of sustainability reporting worldwide.
KEYWORDS: Sustainable Development Goals, Research, Reports & Publications, GRI, global reporting initiative, GRI Standards, sustainability reporting, csr, sustainable development goals, SDGs, Agenda 2030