Analysis of GRI reports points to progress in SDGs integration

New research shows that four-in-five companies included now share a commitment in their sustainability reports to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), nevertheless fewer than half state measurable targets for how their actions contribute towards satisfying the Goals.

Analysis of over 200 global companies that produced a GRI report in 2020 stated in the publication from GRI and Support the Goals – State of Progress: Business Contributions to the SDGs their key findings – these include:

  • 40% of companies set measurable commitments for how they will manage to meet the SDGs, while 20% contain evidence to evaluate their positive impacts.
  • 83% of companies mention that they support the SDGs, understanding the true value of aligning their reports with the Goals;
  • 69% of companies articulate which Goals are most essential to their business, with 61% depicting how their actions support the SDGs;

The research highlights trends in SDG reporting, with recommendations on how companies can better their communications and performance such as:

  • Including targets on how they meet the SDGs, particularly for those that align most closely to the companies’ activities, products or business relationships;
  • Greater reporting on their positive contributions to the SDGs, as well as replying to stakeholder demands for transparency on negative impacts;
  • Make data on their SDG performance accessible much more easily by using globally agreed frameworks, such as the GRI Standards;
  • Work together on SDG reporting, sharing practices both up and down the value chain, while doing more to engage their suppliers in this important topic.

«This study confirms the crucial role of sustainability reporting in enabling companies to explore how their actions impact on the 2030 Agenda, while providing the transparency needed for governments and the international community to measure progress on the SDGs. It is encouraging, therefore, that we are seeing most GRI reporting companies commit to alignment with the SDGs. The urgent next step is to ramp up the role of the private sector in contributing to solutions for fulfilling the Goals, which requires more in-depth and quantifiable disclosure, which links SDG performance with business strategy. Doing so not will only increase progress on the Goals but it can also unlock opportunities for innovation and collaboration.»

Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI Chief External Affairs Officer

«If we’re to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, every business needs to understand how they can contribute to them. It’s wonderful to see that the majority of businesses in our research are showing their support for the Goals. We now urgently need to see an increase in the number of businesses setting measurable targets that contribute to the SDGs, reporting on their progress and – crucially – helping their suppliers understand how they can get involved.»

Colin Curtis, Founder and Director of Support the Goals

The study was based on a sample of 206 companies, looking at their published GRI sustainability reports and data from their websites. Support the Goals methodology was applied with a ‘traffic light’ system of ratings on SDG performance across key areas, as well as 1-5 stars awarded to overall performance. Results are provided geographically, by industry and by turnover.

The Government of Sweden was thanked by GRI for their financial support of this publication, through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

Support the Goals is an initiative to reward businesses for supporting the UN Global Goals, composed of a team of volunteer researchers. The key objectives are to:

  • Improve awareness of the SDGs in the business community;
  • Promote an approach which is more closely associated to planning, target setting, and reporting with respect to the SDGs;
  • Give the youth of today the opportunities of  work experience in corporate sustainability, so they understand how businesses can contribute to a better world.

GRI provides free resources and tools on SDG reporting. Recent publications include Linking the SDGs and the GRI Standards and Using Corporate Reporting to Strengthen the SDGs. A new podcast series from GRI – SDGs: The Rising Tide – is available now.

Source: GRI