Call for improved UN Sustainable Development Goals disclosures

by Carol A Adams

Main points:

  • Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations is published today by leading accounting bodies and others.
  • The SDGD Recommendations are aligned to GRI, IIRC and TCFD.
  • Consultation responses and a Feedback report informed the Recommendations.
  • Consultation responses emphasised the need for accountability for value destruction and negative impacts.

Recommendations calling for improved corporate and asset owner reporting on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have been published by leading global accounting bodies, the IIRC and others.  The recommendations are detailed in the report Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations authored by Carol Adams with Paul Druckman and Russell Picot.

Extracts of responses to the public consultation have been published in Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations: Feedback on the consultation. (Full responses are available here.) They show strong support for alignment of SDGD Recommendations with other key reporting frameworks/standards (those of the Task force on Climate-related Financial Disclosure, the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Integrated Reporting Council). Respondents agreed that accountability for value destruction and negative impacts are critical.

The SDGD Recommendations call on organisations to consider sustainable development risks and opportunities relevant to their long term value creation strategy and communicate the actual or potential impacts on achievement of the SDGs. This will require relevant and material disclosures about the factors that influence long term value creation (or destruction) for the organisation and society or that have an impact (positive of negative) on the achievement of the SDGs in the annual report. 

There is increasing awareness in both business and investment communities that the health and wellbeing of the planet and its people impact on the longer term success of business.  The SDGs offer an opportunity to collaborate and address this. A change in what and how business is done is essential to the achievement of the SDGs.  Key to driving change is the requirement for a statement from the Board Chair that the Board accepts responsibility for the SDG Disclosures in the annual report. To support this the reports details evidence that can be used to satisfy the Board that the organisation is following the SDGD Recommendations.

The Recommendations are built upon a suggested five-step approach for contributing to the SDGs aligned with long-term value creation (Adams, 2017 published by the IIRC and ICAS).

Endorsing the report Elizabeth Boggs Davidsen, Director of SDG Impact from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said: “To achieve the SDGs companies and investors will need to move away from mapping existing activities to the goals to a more integrated practice of directing and disclosing on investment activities that create more impact and contribute to progress towards the SDGs.”

Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director at the World Benchmarking Alliance said: “Without companies aligning their business models and operations with the SDGs – they simply won’t be achieved. We therefore need to work together in translating scientific and societal expectations into clear reporting guidance for companies. This will create the data the World Benchmarking Alliance and others can use to assess and rank corporate performance in a manner that is transparent and free for everyone to see.” 

Kevin Dancey, CEO at the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), said: “Achieving the SDGs requires dedication from business, and the urgency continues to grow. We fully support global best practices that enable effective, transparent reporting on sustainability measures. It’s imperative that we act together and that we act now to secure a sustainable future.”

The SDGD Recommendations are published by global accountancy bodies –  International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS), Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ), the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the World Benchmarking Alliance.

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