14 February 2019
WBCSD Details SDG-related Trends for Business in 2019
Photo by Lynn Wagner
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The article emphasizes the importance of finance and determining who will “foot the SDG bill".

The SDG Business Forum that will be held in parallel to the summit-level HLPF meeting in September will enable businesses to take stock of their SDG efforts and engage with policymakers on scaling up efforts.

6 February 2019: The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) has identified several trends related to scaling up corporate action on the SDGs, drawing attention to developments that will have important implications for business throughout the “pivotal year” of 2019. Author James Gomme suggests that business consider the themes to help them focus and prioritize their SDG-related work.

The trends outlined include: opportunities to take stock of efforts and progress; increased scrutiny of business commitments to the SDGs, and tools and resources available to the private sector; an increased understanding of science-based targets underpinning the SDGs; specific SDGs that will receive heightened focus during the year; and financing the SDGs.

On taking stock of progress, the article reports that the first summit-level meeting of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will take place in September 2019. This meeting aims to review progress on the SDGs and highlight continuing challenges. An SDG Business Forum will take place held in parallel to the summit, enabling businesses to take stock of their SDG efforts and engage with policymakers on scaling up efforts.

SDG performance will be supported by evolving guidance on business strategies to incorporate and report on the SDGs.

On scrutiny of business commitments, the authors note that the World Benchmarking Alliance will rank approximately 2,000 companies through performance benchmarks to examine private sector contributions to the 2030 Agenda. In 2019 SDG performance by companies will also be supported by evolving guidance on business strategies to integrate and report on the SDGs.

The article also highlights the plethora of tools available to support the private sector in integrating the SDGs into their strategies and operations, all of which are available on the WBCSD’s SDG Business Hub. Among these, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s (SDSN) and Bertelsmann Stiftung’s SDG Index & Dashboards, the World Bank’s SDG Atlas and the SDG Tracker all map and measure SDG challenges, while the SDG Industry Matrix and WBCSD’s SDG Sector Roadmaps discuss actions that sectors can take to drive progress. For reporting, the article recalls that the UN Global Compact and Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) provide resources to guide SDG-related disclosures.

On science-based targets, the WBCSD points to an increased understanding of these targets. It highlights, inter alia, a report on scientific pathways towards a healthy and sustainable global food system; and underscores the need for businesses to incorporate reports and research into SDG alignment efforts and strategies.

The author highlights that 2019 will see a particular focus on:

  • SDG 13 (climate action), which will be addressed by both the HLPF in July and the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit in September, among other gatherings and activities throughout 2019;
  • SDG 10 (reduced inequalities), which the HLPF will address both in its in-depth review of a set of Goals, and through its theme, ‘Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality’; and
  • SDG 14 (life below water), which has been “the least prioritized” Goal by businesses, but is gaining traction with an emergence of multi-stakeholder platforms to tackle marine sustainability issues in recent months, such as the Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

Finally, WBCSD emphasizes the importance of finance and determining who will “foot the SDG bill,” which the UN estimates to be between USD5 trillion and USD7 trillion per year. At least USD1 trillion will have to be mobilized from the private sector, and Gomme reports that new mechanisms will be scaled up in 2019 to help de-risk and incentivize more private sector investment, particularly in sustainable infrastructure in frontier markets.

Also in 2019, the UN Secretary-General aims to operationalize his Strategy for Financing the 2030 Agenda, and will call on businesses to advance actionable outcomes ahead of a High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development in September.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)-hosted online portal overviews financing for the SDGs. [WBCSD Article] [Video Detailing the Themes]

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