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Private Sector Needs to Further Accelerate Action on Sustainable Development Goals as the Halfway Point to 2030 Passes
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Private Sector Needs to Further Accelerate Action on Sustainable Development Goals as the Halfway Point to 2030 Passes

September 15, 2023

New report from the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture finds collaborative and credible business action supported by policymakers, in line with the SDGs where they can have the most impact, is needed to achieve the 2030 Agenda.

UNITED NATIONS, New York; Sept. 15, 2023 – The vast majority (94%)of business leaders still view the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a unifying global vision but achieving them requires the private sector to focus on the areas where they can have the most impact, according to new research from the UN Global Compact and Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

Released at the midpoint to 2030,the United Nations Global Compact-Accenture Global Private Sector Stocktake report surveyed over 2,800 business leaders from around the world and shows that the private sector is a critical stakeholder in achieving the SDGs. Currently, only fifteen per cent of the SDG targets are on track, progress on forty-eight per cent is weak and insufficient and progress has stalled or gone into reverse on thirty-seven per cent of the SDGs.

The report presents ten pathways for businesses to take action on the 17 SDGs and have an outsized impact. The ten pathways identified in the report have examples applicable to each of the SDGs and offer a blueprint to help the private sector build a more sustainable market.

"Private sector investment and innovation are essential to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals." said Sanda Ojiambo, CEO and Executive Director, UN Global Compact. “While not a one-size-fits-all approach, businesses should focus their actions where they can have an outsized impact on people and the planet, and on their businesses. This will enable them to effectively communicate performance, set targets and actions, engage with stakeholders, including investors, and gain access to new market opportunities.”

Forty-four per cent of business leaders surveyed are looking to government to put in place policy incentives to help them integrate the SDGs into business strategy and operations to ensure an even playing field across all businesses. They also want clear guidance on where to concentrate their efforts and clear measurement criteria and calculation methods so that they can not only properly report progress, but also make informed decisions based on these insights.

To help the private sector achieve these pathways they want policymakers to:

Scale up new incentive models to redefine success in terms of risk, return, and impact:

The top ask from business leaders is consistent sustainability reporting and disclosure mandates (76%). This helps ensure all businesses are held to the same standard both nationally and globally.

Expand the benefits of market to achieve responsible business:

The second ask is adjusting the national minimum wage to equal living wage levels (71%) -a change to the cost structure of businesses, but of value and worth pursuing if borne fairly. In addition, the majority support policies that would help promote gender equality, namely mandatory disclosure and action of gender pay gaps (65%), and mandatory minimum company paid shared-parental leave (58%).

Transform the bases of business to achieve environmental sustainability:

Finally, businesses support a range of stronger policies to strengthen environmental protection, primarily ensuring that incentives are aligned for a clean energy transition. Secondary policies are around ensuring mandatory disclosures so that all companies are assessed equally, encouraging equal action across sectors.

In addition to insufficient policy support, leaders pointed to structural limitations as inconsistent sustainability metrics and data skills shortfall in particular as key reasons for preventing greater action towards further SDG headway:

·       84% of business leaders say unclear measurement resources to calculate impact towards the SDGs prohibits their company’s ability to make progress.

·       82% of business leaders say limited access and/or poor quality of data limits their ability to measure contribution to the SDGs.

·       77% of business leaders expressed concern about a skills shortage or mismatch in the workforce to realize SDG-related impact across industries.

“Businesses around the world understand more and more their potential to take meaningful action on sustainable development," said Stephanie Jamison, Global Sustainability Services lead at Accenture. “Advances in technology and data analytics over the past five years means we can now use multiple large data sets to measure private sector impacts on the SDGs far more accurately and consistently than ever before. This in turn allows leaders to manage those impacts sooner and with better outcomes, bringing a clarity that will help fulfil the private sector’s critical role in achieving the SDGs.”

The report is the latest in a long-standing partnership between UN Global Compact and Accenture, which leverages a survey of over 2,800 business leaders globally along with a proprietary analysis of financial and non-financial data to generate insights on SDG impacts at the aggregate private sector level. The variety of the data utilized for private sector insights and sentiment makes this report one of the most current, comprehensive, and evidence-based analyses of the private sector’s contribution to the SDGs.

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