New forum launched to help companies ‘raise quality of SDG data’

Apr 30, 2021
Sixteen companies have joined the GRI-run initiative to date

A new project has launched to help companies improve their reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and make disclosure more relevant to different stakeholders. 

The Business Leadership Forum (BLF), run by the GRI, kicked off last month and will host a series of online events to bring together companies and stakeholders such as investors, regulators, governments and others.

The two-year project will have ‘a focus on raising the quality and relevance of SDG data,’ according to a statement from the BLF.

So far, the forum has attracted 16 companies from nine countries, including Switzerland’s ABB Group, Nigeria’s IHS Towers, Singapore’s City Developments and the US’ Cigna.

The program follows on from a four-year action plan on SDG reporting run by GRI and the UN Global Compact, which ended last year.

Companies that want to take part are required to have at least three years of reporting experience with the GRI standards. Membership fees also apply. 

‘There is increasing interest from many stakeholders, including investors, in business contribution to the SDGs,’ says Asthildur Hjaltadottir, GRI chief regional officer.

‘But different stakeholders have different expectations and data needs. What are the practical changes companies can make, and how can their SDG data be decision-useful for stakeholders? These are key questions the forum will explore.’

Launched in 2016 by the UN, the SDGs are a set of 17 development goals intended to be achieved by 2030. They cover broad themes such as ending poverty, achieving gender equality and providing clean water and sanitation. Underpinning the goals are 169 targets that offer more specific objectives for societies and businesses. 

Corporate reporting on the SDGs has grown quickly in recent years. In a survey of 5,200 companies, KPMG finds the proportion connecting their business activities to the SDGs grew from 39 percent in 2017 to 69 percent in 2020. The figure rises to 72 percent when looking at just the 250 largest companies in the world by revenue. 

The jump in interest may have been influenced by greater stakeholder demand for transparency on areas like supply chains, working conditions and diversity, says KPMG in the study.

‘It is also likely that more companies now have a better understanding of the SDGs and feel more comfortable in addressing them in their sustainability reporting,’ adds the advisory firm.

While SDG reporting has grown significantly, companies have been criticized for focusing only on their positive contributions to the goals and ignoring their negative impacts. KPMG says just 14 percent of its broad survey sample has ‘balanced’ SDG reporting.

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