2017 in Review: Making the SDGs a Reality Through Sustainability Reporting

Dec 29, 2017 10:00 AM ET

This year has been challenging for sustainability in many respects, but there have also been exciting developments in the sustainability reporting landscape. In this short series, we look back at GRI’s efforts, and at what 2018 has in store.

A recent report revealed that the world needs to pick up the pace if we are to meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the 2030 deadline. The 17 ambitious SDGs require the contribution of the private sector, not least to provide the estimated USD $5-7 trillion investment needed. To support organizations in their contributions to reach this goal, GRI and the UN Global Compact (UNGC) joined forces to launch the Reporting on the SDGs Action Platform—a multi-stakeholder movement that will play a pivotal role shaping the future of corporate reporting on the SDGs. The Action Platform aims to leverage the GRI Standards – the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards – and the Ten Principles of the UN Global Compact to enable businesses to incorporate SDG reporting into their existing processes, empowering them to act and make the achievements of the SDGs a reality. There are two formations under the platform: a Corporate Action Group comprising business representatives, and a broader Multi-stakeholder Advisory Committee.

The first outcome of the Action Platform was presented at the UN Global Compact Leaders’ Summit in New York in September: Business Reporting on the SDGs: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets. An inventory of the possible disclosures per SDG at the target level, it aims to facilitate transparency by linking to a “menu” of potential actions businesses can take to contribute to the SDGs. The final handbook for SDG business reporting will be released in 2018.

GRI and the Investment Community

GRI is helping strengthen the role of the private sector in achieving the SDGs by working with the investment community. In 2017, several partnerships and initiatives paved the way for the world’s investors and stock exchanges to take action. In March, GRI signed an Exchange of Letters with the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) to deepen the organizations’ collaboration on responsible investment, including work related to the Sustainable Stock Exchanges initiative.

Events followed in June and November, to further support investors in their role boosting the private sector contribution to the SDGs. In September, GRI’s Chief Executive Tim Mohin and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Managing Director Fiona Reynolds signed a collaboration agreement in New York, reinforcing “the joint efforts between the leading global sustainability reporting framework and the world’s principal initiative for responsible investment, to align corporate sustainability reporting with investor expectations.”

The Stockholm Declaration

But the SDGs should not be seen just as a responsibility – they also provide opportunities for businesses. That is why GRI, PRI and UNGC founded The Stockholm Declaration in 2017 – a group of 27 leading organizations in the global investment community, representing over USD $1 trillion assets under management. The Stockholm Declaration signatories have committed to investing in the SDGs: “We welcome the opportunity and are committed to work with the ‘Reporting on the SDGs Action Platform’, co-led by the UN Global Compact and GRI, and supported by PRI. We are also keen to investigate possibilities of measuring the investors’ impact related to the SDGs and will continue to collaborate to advance this agenda.”

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