UN Private Sector SDG Stocktake
Can your business do more?
The SDGs offer a vision of a more sustainable and equitable world by 2030. Developed by the United Nations in 2015, these 17 goals address some of the planet’s most critical social, economic, and environmental challenges.
The good news? Business leaders remain committed to that vision. Our new survey of 2,800+ leaders from 137 countries finds the overwhelming majority still believe in the SDGs (94%) and recognize they have a critical role in achieving them (96%).
In 2022, 92% of CEOs believed the world would achieve the SDGs by 2030. Asked the same question a year later, 49% said they believed the same. Ongoing business challenges — including inflation, geopolitical instability, and supply chain control — are diverting attention and creating barriers to progress. Furthermore, structural limitations, such as unclear measurement and data restrictions, highlight where leaders struggle to fundamentally incorporate the SDGs into their business operations.
For many SDGs, private sector action will be a decisive factor in meeting or missing the 2030 deadline.
Analyzing SDG impact data uncovers that the private sector’s greatest contribution to the SDGs has been through creating employment opportunities and advancing economic growth. However, this growth has come at a cost, namely to the environment. Negative environmental factors are also further driving social disruption in poverty, hunger, health care, and global peace.
The private sector needs to step up. While the majority (81%) of business leaders believe their businesses are doing enough to contribute to the SDGs, fewer (62%) feel that their industry is doing enough, and only half (48%) state that the private sector is doing enough. However, ambitious leaders are taking action:
of business leaders say their company has a public commitment to at least one SDG
identified a business case for advancing at least one SDG
changed a product or service offering to align with an SDG
1. Recommit to the basics. Adopt responsible human rights-based business strategies. Conduct business in a principled manner, free of corruption.
2. Provide a living wage. Work in collaboration with contractors, supply chain partners, and other key stakeholders to achieve a living wage.
3. Promote gender equality. Ensure gender balance across all levels of management. Provide equal pay for work of equal value.
4. Innovate responsibly. Infuse purpose and responsibility in all innovation activities and anticipate unintended consequences.
5. Accelerate climate action. Set science-based net-zero emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C pathway. Address the social impacts of climate measures in partnership with workers, unions, communities, and suppliers.
6. Improve water resilience. Achieve net-positive water impact in water-stressed basins.
7. Protect and restore nature. Align with the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosures.
8. Invest in circularity. Source 100% sustainable material inputs. Recover 100% of resources and recycle or reuse all materials and products at end of life. Send zero waste to landfills and incinerators.
9. Commit to sustainable corporate finance. Achieve 100% alignment with the CFO principles on integrated SDG investments and finance.
10. Improve corporate governance. Align executive remuneration with SDGs. Create a board-level position to advocate for long-term stakeholder interests. Engage in responsible lobbying.
The private sector is a critical stakeholder in achieving the SDGs and leaders want to step up to the plate. Today it’s possible for companies to consistently measure and report on their SDG impact.
Stephanie Jamison / Global Resources Industry Practices Chair & Sustainability Services Lead