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Companies Not Living Up to UN Sustainable Development Vows

Sept. 20, 2017
While more than 9,000 companies globally have pledged to support UN sustainable-development goals such, one-third haven’t set any measurable targets and just 55% are monitoring progress.

More than 9,000 companies around the world have pledged to support United Nations sustainable-development goals such as respecting human rights, fighting corruption and ending poverty. Many have yet to follow through.

More than one-third of the participating companies haven’t set any measurable sustainability targets and just 55% are monitoring progress, according to a report published on Sept. 18.

 Only 29% have studied whether the policies they adopted have any effect outside of their own companies.

“The gap between intentions and action is glaring,” said Cecilie Hultmann, head of impact analysis for the UN Global Compact’s sustainable development goals. The 17 goals were adopted in 2015 by all 193 UN nations, with the aim of reaching them by 2030 with the help of business and other groups.

Goals of gender equality and reducing economic disparity, in particular, “are on a dangerous path and not likely to get close to their targets by 2030,” the report said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told global business executives at the UN’s private-sector forum on Monday that financial companies especially can play a role in fighting tax evasion and financial crimes linked to corruption.

“Without your leadership, our project will simply fail,” he said.

Transparency Key

Lise Kingo, CEO of the UN Global Compact, said transparency and accountability are key for meeting the goals. She said significant progress has been made at companies whose CEOs have personally backed the objectives.

The Global Compact has expelled 7,448 companies that failed to file a required annual report on their progress. Most of those ejected were small and mid-sized companies, mainly in Europe, that may not have had the resources to prepare a report, Hultmann said. The group recently also expelled companies that derive revenue from the production of tobacco and nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

One complaint by companies, said Hultmann, is that there is no standard methodology for measuring progress toward the goals. On Sept. 21, the Global Compact will introduce a set of metrics that aim to address that issue, she said.

By Laura Colby

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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