17 July 2018: A publication launched at the SDG Business Forum by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) and the UN Global Compact seeks to help businesses align their SDG-related disclosures with investors’ information needs. SDG target 12.6 calls for companies to “integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.”

Titled, ‘In Focus: Addressing Investor Needs in Business Reporting on the SDGs,’ the paper offers guidance to companies to ensure that their disclosures help mobilize the finance needed to achieve the SDGs. The publication’s forward notes that investors seek information on 1) how businesses are reaping results from their competitive advantages connected to the SDGs, and 2) the relevance of the SDGs to overall strategies.

The report aims to facilitate greater comparison across companies, and strengthen the case for investment in line with the SDGs.

Aimed primarily at the “corporate sustainability reporting practitioners” who are responsible for integrating SDG information into their companies’ reporting processes, the report intends to build on existing disclosure standards to facilitate greater comparison across companies. The publication stresses that it does not seek to impose an additional reporting standard or framework on companies, but rather seeks to “demonstrate what good, investor-relevant business reporting around the SDGs looks like” to strengthen the case for investment in line with the Goals.

In a press release on the publication, GRI CEO Tim Mohin says that investors prefer to see balanced reporting and companies’ targets mapped against the SDGs. Doing so in line with common standards, he notes, can enable more consistent and comparable data.

The paper highlights four C’s of sustainability reporting: concise, consistent, current and comparable. With this information, the authors note, investors can direct capital flows such that they not only amplify business opportunities and generate profits, but also yield social and environmental returns for society, in line with the SDGs. Further, not achieving the SDGs can impede business profitability, and thus reduce investors’ returns.

The report’s ten key recommendations focus on: message and approach; strategy and governance; report content; and data format. They address characteristics that companies can take to ensure meaningful SDG uptake—such as rewards for meeting SDG targets—as well as best practices, such as providing links to raw data so analysts can review or normalize it as needed. The recommendations are placed in context, with the report describing how reporters and investors can align their engagement efforts, for example, so that investors can understand the potential short-term trade-offs required to realize long-term gains.

The paper also distinguishes between an SDG approach and an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach, noting that the former considers external impacts by the business, but does not cover corporate governance, which can often be a means of delivering environmental and social outcomes.

The report follows an earlier document that outlines actions companies can take in line with the SDGs, titled, ‘An Analysis of the Goals and Targets.’ It also recognizes the 2017 ‘Stockholm Declaration’ on Investors and corporate SDG reporting.

GRI, PRI and UN Global Compact note that the ‘In Focus’ report will be followed in late 2018 by a publication titled, ‘Integrating the SDGs into corporate reporting: A Practical Guide,’ from which some of the In Focus graphics are taken. [GRI Press Release] [Publication: In Focus: Addressing Investor Needs in Business Reporting on the SDGs] [Publication: An Analysis of the Goals and Targets]