With many options out there, what are the ‘best’ tools to help incorporate the SDGs in business strategy and operations?

Through our work with global, regional, and local companies, we recognize a shift in how the private sector views and (to varying degrees) embraces the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). But the gap between embracing the SDGs and actually doing something about it can be difficult to bridge, so we took a look at the ecosystem of resources that help companies incorporate the Global Goals into their core operations through assessment, integration, and reporting. Here are some of the best:

Assessing Overall Strategy

Several firms assess corporate operations vis-à-vis environmental and social sustainability targets and the field has expanded to include free/low-cost tools that can be tailored to specific goals and action plans. Our two favorites:

  • S-CORE Sustainability Assessment: Used by organizations from Nike to Dartmouth College, this flexible assessment helps internal sustainability professionals track performance against various SDG-related targets like economic development, human health, and tolerance & diversity.
  • Future-Fit Business Benchmark: Future-Fit helps firms measure a comprehensive set of Key Fitness Indicators (KFIs) to compare past and current performance against objectives that align with the SDGs, such as renewable energy, water conservation, living wages, employee discrimination, and community sensitivity.

Integrating Specific SDG Objectives

These action-oriented tools help companies move beyond corporate-level strategy towards meeting concrete business unit and value chain targets.

  • SDG Compass: With dozens of tools for targeted tasks, such as measuring ecosystem services and conducting base of the pyramid impact assessments, this site is excellent for accomplishing SDG-specific progress. Its business indicator database also helps companies index individual operational activities to sub-components of the SDGs.
  • UN Business Action Hub: As the UN’s flagship business partnership platform, this website provides a range of resources to act on the SDGs. The partnership literature includes case studies and extensive guidance on the best goals and scopes for a given company or industry.
  • UN Global Compact: This database of 47,000+ sustainability and social responsibility reports, produced by its 9,500+ members, makes this is the ‘go-to’ site for incorporating the SDGs. The site has practical tools for topics from conducting anti-corruption risk assessments to managing global supply chain sustainability, all searchable by topic, goal, industry, and language.

Reporting Progress

By communicating progress toward social and environmental sustainability targets, these tools provide internal benchmarks and signals to investors interested in supporting the SDGs.

  • Integrated Reporting (<IR>): <IR>’s reporting methodology enables companies to define their long-term, sustainable value creation by integrating information about governance, business model, risk exposure, resource allocation, and performance outlook into periodic reports.
  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI): GRI provides a set of reporting standards for companies to use in communicating material progress on social, environmental, and economic development issues. With links to training and information on its standards, which are arranged in tiered levels of complexity and tailored by sector, this site simplifies getting started in reporting.

While <IR>, GRI, S-CORE, and Future-Fit advocate a range of strategies that implicitly include SDG integration, they stop short of explicitly aligning themselves to the SDGs. But as corporate leaders increasingly emphasize that the SDGs are crucial to business survival and success, we expect these service providers to move from an implicit inclusion of the SDGs to one that is much more explicit, especially as more companies and investors align themselves to the Global Goals.

by Peter Lugthart, Associate and Jeff Halvorson, Sr. Project Manager