I spend a lot of time at the World Benchmarking Alliance thinking about the tipping points needed to accelerate private sector action on the Sustainable Development Goals. As Strategic Engagement Lead, my work focuses on building coalitions of diverse actors – including investors, policymakers, civil society, individual citizens, and businesses themselves – who are committed and empowered to hold companies accountable for their role in achieving a more sustainable future. This is no easy task, but it is critical if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030.
That’s why I’m so proud that the WBA launched the “SDG2000” – a list of the world’s most influential companies based on their potential to impact and achieve the SDGs – last month, during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
The SDG2000 spans listed, private, and state-owned enterprises representing over 30 industries ranging from apparel to insurance to telecommunications to waste management. Collectively, the companies comprising the list make up half of the entire global economy and are responsible for $43 trillion in revenue. They are global in nature, spanning 74 countries, with 1 in 4 companies headquartered in developing, emerging, or frontier markets.
These companies hold dominant positions in their respective industries and supply chains, have the power to be active agents of change, and play a key role in driving systemic transformation. Importantly, they are also the 2,000 companies that WBA will assess and rank across seven system transformations by 2023.
Creating a movement
The private sector is critical to achieving the SDGs. And while the scale of the challenge is enormous, with an annual financing gap of around $2.5 trillion, there are also enormous market opportunities waiting for companies that embrace this agenda as part of their core business. Some companies have taken a leading role by being vocal advocates, making bold commitments, and nudging their industry peers to follow suit, but the ambition, rigor, and rate of progress have not been nearly aggressive enough to effect large-scale, systems-wide change.
It is for this very reason that WBA is creating a movement to promote corporate performance, transparency, and accountability on the SDGs. Our work is premised on the idea that free, publicly available data on company performance can incentivize action, inspire collaboration, and promote a race to the top. And through our global, multi-stakeholder Alliance of over 120 organisations, we are developing benchmark methodologies that can serve as roadmaps for companies to understand where the gaps in performance are and how to achieve systemic impact on the issues that matter most.
Our vision is a world in which the success of business is measured by its contribution to society, but we can’t do it alone. Our network of Allies and supporters are critical to creating the enabling environment needed to help us accomplish the sustainable future we envision.
How can you help?
As we kick of the Decade of Action for SDG achievement, we invite you to join the movement by becoming an Ally and working with us to ensure that the world’s most influential companies constructively contribute to the future we’d like to see.
In addition, we invite you to participate in our social media campaign kicking off today. To participate, please send us photos, short videos, or quotes (see the video below for some inspiration from a few of our Allies) sharing any SDG leadership or accountability challenges you are addressing, what opportunities you see for increased action, and what expectations you have of the SDG2000 companies.
As I look towards 2030, I’m more convinced than ever that partnership and collaboration will be the tipping points we need to get us over the edge to success. And while the runway for action and impact is short, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.