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GRI/UN Global Compact aim to advance corporate SDG reporting with latest report

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Published: 9 August 2022

The latest report by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the UN Global Compact aims to improve and accelerate the way businesses report on progress made towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals

The latest report by GRI and UN Global Compact aims to make it easier for companies to assess and report on progress made towards reaching the SDGs | Photo of UN Sustainable Development Goals poster, UN

In brief

  • An updated edition of the ‘Business Reporting on the SDGs: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets’ aims to make it easier for companies to assess and report their progress
  • It includes an inventory of possible disclosures per SDG, with a total of 169 targets based on different sources
  • The majority of businesses still not reporting SDG progress

An updated edition of the Business Reporting on the SDGs: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets has been published by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the United Nations Global Compact to improve and accelerate the reporting on progress made towards reaching the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and targets. 

The latest analysis includes an inventory of possible disclosures per SDG, with a total of 169 targets based on 26 disclosure sources, including the AWS International Water Stewardship Standard, CDP questionnaires, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Methodology 2021 and the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework.    

Businesses are encouraged to use these disclosures to report on their efforts towards achieving the SDGs in order to “pave the way for the aggregation of relevant information across companies and sectors, enabling better comparability and usability by stakeholders”.

First published in 2017, the updated analysis is one of several reporting resources produced by the UN Global Compact and GRI-led Action Platform for reporting on the SDGs initiative, which aims to help businesses integrate the SDGs into their reporting processes and drive corporate action to achieve the goals.  

Commenting on the publication of the latest edition of the analysis, Bernhard Frey, SDG impact and reporting officer for UN Global Compact, said: “Transparency and accountability is an integral part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Measuring and reporting on their contributions and impacts on the SDGs can help businesses drive sustainability action. In the context of the social and environmental crises that our societies face, increased ambition by businesses is more needed than ever to achieve the SDGs.”  

Progress on SDGs rolled-back  

According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report 2022, published last month by UN Statistics, progress on achieving the SDGs has been set back by the COVID-19 pandemic, the accelerating climate crisis and the war in Ukraine, “with these cascading and intersecting crises creating spin-off impacts on food and nutrition, health, education, the environment, and peace and security, and affecting all the SDGs”.

The report also highlights significant data gaps for eight out of the 17 SDGs “in terms of geographic coverage, timeliness and level of disaggregation”,  which it says makes it “difficult to fully comprehend the pace of progress towards the realisation of the 2030 Agenda, differences across regions and who is being left behind”.

The report explains that for these eight SDGs, fewer than half of the 193 UN member states had internationally comparable data from 2015 or later, giving the example of goal 13 (Climate Action) for which only around 20% of countries had data.

The report also found that disaggregated data for monitoring the progress of vulnerable population groups was also insufficient. For example, of the 32 SDG indicators with a requirement of sex disaggregation, only 21 had the latest disaggregated data available in most countries and for 8 indicators, no sex disaggregated data was available at all.  

Majority of businesses not reporting SDG progress 

Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI

Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI’s chief external affairs officer, said that it was a concern that progress on achieving the SDGs was, at this halfway stage, far too slow.  

In response to questions from Impact Investor about how far the publication of the SDG reporting resources, including the latest edition, could go in helping businesses to plug these data gaps, he said: “The private sector, through improved reporting, is crucial in addressing the data gaps. Our publication makes it easier for companies to assess how their activities and impacts relate not only to the Global Goals but also the underlying targets. This new version of the document makes the connections with 26 disclosure frameworks, including the widely-used GRI Standards. That’s good news for reporters and also for investors and other stakeholders who compare and analyse this data.” 

In January, the GRI published its own report, which looked at business contributions to the SDGs covering the period 2020-2021. The report found that although many businesses had set targets that were explicitly aligned with the SDGs, the majority had not, and that the overwhelming majority of businesses were also not yet reporting data on progress towards the SDGs. 

Van de Wijs highlighted the important role of reporting but also the urgent need for action: “We have been able to show that effective reporting is the catalyst for accountability. When it comes to the sustainable development agenda, this is crucial; we don’t only need disclosure, we need action as a result.” 

Asked about the role of the investment community in pushing for progress on the SDGs, he added: “Decision-making in support of the SDGs requires reporting that is high quality – covering not only how businesses contribute but also their negative impacts. Alongside that, too often companies fail to disclose how SDG performance relates to their business strategy. By pressing the companies they invest in to fully commit to comprehensive SDG reporting, investors have an important part to play.” 

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