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Businesses need to work harder on SDGs - PwC

Big Four advisory company PwC released a report on how much companies integrate sustainable development goals (SDGs) into their strategies, revealing that few businesses are setting specific targets and taking measures to reach SDGs.

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PwC analyzed the published financial and sustainability reporting of 1,141 companies from 31 countries across seven industry sectors, conducting interviews with business leaders around the world to get their unique perspective on the SDGs.

PwC says that some 72% of the businesses participating in the study  publicly mentioned the SDGs in their reporting publications. Out of these companies, 59% referenced them as part of their sustainability report while 51% mentioned them in their annual report.

On the other hand, just 34% of companies that mentioned the SDGs did so in sections of their reporting that discussed business strategy.

Some 21% made specific mention of the SDGs in the CEO or Chair statement (up from 13% in 2018), which PwC calls a clear indication that the goals are moving to the top of the executive agenda.

Companies in the financial services industry were the most likely to mention SDGs (74%), while companies in the health sector in our research were least likely to mention the SDGs.

Just 14% (157 companies out of the total 1,141) mentioned specific targets. Some 39% of these companies are setting qualitative ambitions and 20% are setting quantitative ambitions. So far, only 8% (which is only 1% of the overall sample) are reporting quantitative measures to show their progress towards targets, according to the research.

"The companies are beginning to rank the goals that they deem important, but there is little that suggests that they are following an integrated way of thinking regarding approaching these goals," says Andrea Major, partner, PwC Hungary. "Goals related to water, land, and energy offer both opportunities and risks in nearly all industries, but this is not taken into account for future business strategies and investments."