Reporting on the sustainable development goals should not simply be a tick box exercise for business. www.shutterstock.com
It seems there is a gap between what Australian companies publicly state they are doing with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and what they are actually doing. Our research found that companies are still not meaningfully disclosing the way these goals are measured and reporting their contributions.
These UN goals show business how they can contribute to solving the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges.
There’s a difference between a company having a commitment to support the sustainable development goals and actually being able to effectively demonstrate something is being done. That difference is measurement. Without an effective measuring system companies cannot back up claims, which reduces the credibility and reliability of the information.
Our research explored the extent to which the top Australian Securities Exchange companies (ASX top 20) are disclosing and incorporating the sustainable development goals into their business strategies and reporting processes.
The ASX 20 companies’ disclosures were assessed based on four elements: commitment to, structuring for, action towards and measuring of the sustainable development goals. We also set up thirteen criteria that reflect the maturity of companies’ public commitment and actions in relation to the sustainable development goals.
Across all 20 companies assessed in our sample, we found that these companies score the lowest on meaningful and credible disclosure on their commitment to the goals.
Based on our criteria, the overall average score across all 20 companies was only 38% out of 100%. When it came to commitment to the goals, companies scored 49%.
The extent to which progress against the sustainable development goals has been measured and communicated scored lowest, only 19%. Only one company, (5% of the sample) provided detailed disclosure on the progress made towards the sustainable development goals that considered previous performance or baselines.