Last month I was delighted to be invited to participate in the World Benchmarking Alliance consultation in London with around 40 stakeholders from different backgrounds across business, NGOs and academia.

The topic for discussion was around the idea of creating a new benchmarking tool to better assess corporate performance on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While this might be viewed by some as yet another assessment for companies to wrap their heads around and comply with, there was a general consensus in the room that there was a need to fill a gap on the SDGs in order to provide robust measurement and analysis as a way to credit leaders or hold laggards to account.

The development of an international league table would provide financial institutions, companies, governments and civil society with information they can use to allocate capital, increase transparency, track and compare corporate sustainability performance, and ultimately catalyze action to accelerate progress on the SDGs.

The conversation around the table explored the challenges and opportunities that benchmarking the SDGs presents, and regardless of the challenges, there was an acknowledgement that this is too important not to do. The need to get to 2030 requires better mechanisms for business to respond to the challenges, and the value of a thoughtful, legitimate and credible index was widely understood to be the catalyst for the change we need.

As part of GlobeScan’s latest Radar research program, we asked citizens in 21 countries about their awareness of the SDGs in both 2016 and 2017, as well as the views of those in 15 countries on different institutions’ performance in acting to implement them. While detailed awareness is low, a good proportion of the public, four in ten global respondents report having at least some awareness about the Global Goals. Among the general public around the world, corporate performance is perceived poorly.

The public sees NGOs (net performance rating of +36) and the United Nations (+30) as leaders in making sure the SDGs are implemented, while national governments (+12) and large companies (+3) score much lower. The SDGs are a new factor for consideration in business, and present an opportunity for global companies to rebuild trust with the public.

Governments, NGOs and corporations are all expected to play their part and work together to tackle the challenges in each of the Global Goals in order to end poverty in the world and protect the planet by 2030. By aligning business models with real social issues, as expressed in the SDGs, this could provide space for global companies to negotiate a new social contract with society.

Chris Coulter

CEO GlobeScan