Australian companies which have committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are working on some of the world’s biggest challenges – but they aren’t showing their work.
A recent analysis of the top Australian Securities Exchange companies (ASX top 20) who have publicly stated support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) showed how they have fared incorporating them into business strategies and reporting processes. The report by Think Impact assessed four elements: commitment to, structuring for, action on, and measuring of the SDGs.
As this article shows, there is a significant gap between what the companies state they are doing and their actual efforts. The overall average score was only 38% implementation of the four elements. The biggest gap was seen in the extent to which progress against the goals has been measured and reported, with an average score for company measuring and reporting efforts of 19%.
The report ‘ASX 20 Disclosures on the Sustainable Development Goals’ suggests that this low score might indicate that company effort is focussed on reporting their commitment to support the SDGs – rather than communicating how they progressed, assessed and shared this commitment. This gets in the way of meaningful progress towards the achievement of the SDGs.
The report highlighted the importance of measurement approaches that don’t just focus on outputs like resources, activities, and the number of beneficiaries, but rather on the change created for these beneficiaries – and whether this is the best way to deliver positive outcomes. Monitoring, evaluation and reporting (MER) is a crucial element of keeping projects on track and demonstrating that outcomes are being met; it demonstrates the impact and value of a project.
Measuring and reporting isn’t just a matter of bragging rights, or corporate transparency and disclosure. It is fundamental to actually delivering outcomes. And as the report points out – this is an opportunity for businesses to contribute to solving the world’s biggest sustainable development challenges. Delivering these outcomes is what it’s all about, and it’s time for business to put their monitoring where their mouths are.
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.