Almost three-quarters (72%) of listed companies mention the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in their annual reports or sustainability reports, PwC has found. However, in spite of SDG references increasing by 10% from last year, companies are struggling to identify actions beyond business-as-usual scenarios or adopt key performance indicators.
The global auditing giant reviewed the reporting practices of 729 listed companies, from 21 countries in six sectors - representing some $12.4trn in revenues - to evaluate how SDGs were being integrated into business strategy, planning and reporting. Its report SDG reporting challenge 2018 - from promise to reality paints a picture of global acceptance of the importance of the goals, but piecemeal measures to adopt them.
Companies in the energy, utilities and mining sectors, and also technology, media and telecom are the most active in using SDGs in reporting (78% of firms) while those in transport and logistic are the least active (63%).
Half of the companies reviewed have identified priority goals to address but only 28% have key performance indicators linked to measures to approach them. And while 27% of the sample mention SDGs as part of their business strategy, only 19% of CEO or chair statements specifically cite the goals.
The most popular SDGs identified as a priority were: decent work and economic growth; climate action; and responsible consumption and production. The least popular priorities were: no poverty; zero hunger and life below water.
Global sustainability reporting & assurance leader at PwC, Alan McGill, said: "Success with the SDGs depends on making them a central part of business strategy. What is
planned for, measured and reported in public filing is a good indicator of what is embedded in a businesses’ strategy and priorities. Invariably that strategy is shaped at the very top of the organisation by CEOs and embedded with key performance indicators and reporting.
"The increase in companies indicating the SDGs challenge in their reporting is a positive sign of engagement that will increasingly need to be backed by strategies that look beyond business as usual at the opportunities being presented."