One-third of global business leaders don’t believe in integrating SDGs: UN study

Lack of knowledge and global economic slowdown major reasons behind this hesitance, found the UN Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study on Sustainability 2019

By Jitendra
Published: Thursday 26 September 2019

Around 33 per cent of global business leaders, who until three years ago saw integration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a business opportunity, are shying away from adopting them, according to the latest United Nations Global Compact-Accenture Strategy CEO Study on Sustainability 2019.

The study The Decade to Deliver: A Call to Business Action found lack of knowledge and global economic slowdown as major reasons behind this hesitation. 

Currently 67 per cent of chief executive officers (CEOs) see sustainability as a window of opportunity to recalibrate their efforts in line with the global milestones. This number was 90 per cent in 2016, according to the report.

Of the 67 per cent, 48 per cent are integrating sustainability into their businesses and 21 per cent believe businesses play a critical role in the global goals, highlighted the report.

Also, the number of CEOs who think sustainability is important for the future success of their business reduced a bit — 94 per cent in 2019 from 97 per cent in 2016.

Small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are majorly responsible for this overall drop in perception. Around 63 percent SMEs cite lack of financial resources as the main impediment, according to the report.

It also found that CEOs became more aware about sustainability in the past three years. While in 2019, 26 per cent CEOs think sustainability and business are not linked, the number was 37 per cent in 2013.

Also, knowledge gap has filled — 8 per cent CEOs still face lack of knowledge about sustainability, in 2013 this was 21 per cent, according to the report.

Changing practices

The report listed examples of companies that introduced green practices to expand their business.

In South Africa, retailer Woolworths Holdings Ltd worked with its food manufacturers to introduce soil management practices that cut their water usage and increased control over waste. As a result, its suppliers could grow crops in a time when others couldn’t. This helped them expand business, increase market share and enhance food access during drought.

More than three-fourth of CEOs believe that trust development with consumers and communities is critical to their business, added the study. “Customers and consumers look for assurances on how we are doing business right away,” said Mark Hunter, president and CEO, Molson Coors.

Companies are curating a framework that defines a shared vision with 17 SDGs and strategic direction for the brand. “Unless a company discloses its sustainability initiatives and corporate values, the stock price will be affected,” said Yoshihiro Hidaka, president, CEO and representative director, Yamaha Motor Co Ltd.

The global economic slowdown also pushed integration of sustainability to the back burner. Around 42 per cent CEOs say the environment of economic uncertainty stalled their sustainability efforts, found the report.

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