Guide for Business Action on the Sustainable Development Goals

World Business Council for Sustainable Development, GRI and UN Global Compact

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), in conjunction with GRI and UN Global Compact, has developed a guide for companies, setting out what they need to do to align their business strategies with the SDGs and to measure the impact that their strategies have on these goals.

The SDG Compass Guide explains how SDGs affect business and provides tools for putting sustainability at the center of business strategy. Thus, the SDG Compass exists to help companies – multinationals in particular, but also small and medium sized firms - to align their strategies and manage their contribution to SDGs.

The Guide presents five steps that help companies maximize their contribution and where the responsibility stops with them: complying with current legislation, respecting minimum international standards and making the solution of negative impacts a priority, paying special attention to those that impact human rights.

First of all, the Guide gives a brief description of the SDGs. It highlights the call they make to companies throughout the world to promote sustainable development and reduce negative impacts. Making progress towards the SDGs requires a global effort and coordinated action with all types of players: governments, the private sector and civil society. The business sphere is of particular importance, given that companies can reduce negative impacts and maximize the positive ones, manage risk, anticipate customer demand and also position themselves in emerging markets. Going further, the Guide affirms that the SDGs can be used as a general framework within which to mark out business strategies and targets, such that companies can obtain benefits such as identifying business opportunities, improving business sustainability, strengthening relationships with stakeholders, keeping the market stable, and using a common language which allows different parties to share a joint purpose.

Secondly, a series of priorities has to be defined, since not all the SDGs have the same importance for companies. To this end, mapping the areas of impact is very important. In this process, companies should select suitable key performance indicators for impact assessment and collate data for each indicator.

After this, using the results of the impact assessment and the SDGs they have prioritized, companies should set goals that are measurable, concrete and have time frames.

The Guide stresses that it is fundamental to anchor sustainability within core business activity and embed targets to carry out the goals set previously. Similarly, it sees working with partners as critical to tackle sustainability issues robustly, given that these cannot be managed in a vacuum.

Finally, the Guide recommends communicating progress as it is made towards the SDGs. It refers to goal 12.6 of the SDGs, according to which governments need to create the conditions for companies to adopt sustainable practices and include information about sustainability in their legal and regulatory documents.