Call for improved UN Sustainable Development Goals disclosures

Posted
17 January, 2020

We have joined leading accounting bodies calling for corporate and asset owner action and improved reporting on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in an attempt to hit goals set for 2030.  The recommendations are detailed in the report published today, Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations, authored by Carol Adams, Professor of Accounting, with Paul Druckman and Russell Picot, Honorary Professors at Durham University Business School.

The report has been published by the 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) – as well as the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and the World Benchmarking Alliance.

The SDGD Recommendations offer a new approach for businesses and other organizations to address sustainable development issues aligned to the three most influential and popular reporting frameworks. They attempt to establish a best practice for corporate reporting on the SDGs and enable more effective and standardized reporting and transparency on climate change, social and other environmental impacts.

The SDGD Recommendations were developed through consultation with accounting and finance professionals, sustainability experts, academics, consultants, framework and standard setters, asset owners and managers and civil society participants.

Responses to the consultation have been published in Sustainable Development Goals Disclosure (SDGD) Recommendations: Feedback on the consultation. 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 organizations 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 organization and society or that have an impact (positive of negative) on the achievement of the SDGs in the annual report.

Professor Carol Adams says: “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.”

These Recommendations are built upon a suggested five-step approach for contributing to the SDGs aligned with long-term value creation, previously developed by Professor Adams and 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.”