- The 2,000 companies – known as the SDG2000 – are those with the greatest potential to transform systems and influence progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
- Alarmingly, less than a third of these influential companies have verified emissions reduction targets, showing a major gap in their current plans and pledges.
- WBA is pushing to accelerate ambitious corporate action and ensure these companies are held accountable for their sustainability progress by policymakers, investors, NGOs and consumers alike.
The World Benchmarking Alliance has today published an updated list of the world’s 2,000 most influential companies. The analysis, refreshed at the start of each year and known as the SDG2000, details 2,000 companies that hold dominant positions in their respective industries, headquartered across 86 economies and with operations and supply chains spanning the globe. They provide the vital food, energy, housing, internet, transportation and financial systems our societies depend on, and have collective revenues of $45 trillion, equivalent to 42% of global GDP.
With this influence, they could significantly accelerate sustainable systems transformation and deliver progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but they are currently falling behind. Despite the hope that the companies could be major agents of change, less than a third (29%) have submitted greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction targets to the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi) –highlighting the importance of holding them accountable for faster progress. Of the 10 businesses with the highest revenues, only two, Apple and Walmart, have SBTi-recognised emissions targets.
The SDG2000 list includes Samsung, Coca Cola, Ørsted, Alibaba and Barclays – with the full information freely available here. Announced during the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting at Davos, WBA hopes to accelerate a year of ambitious action from businesses around the world as the clock ticks down on the 2030 deadline to achieve the SDGs – as well ensuring that companies are held accountable for their progress.
Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director of the World Benchmarking Alliance, said:
We have passed the halfway mark on the deadline to achieving the SDGs and only 12% of the targets are on track. We are not delivering what the world requires. Without accountability, businesses will not take the action both people and planet desperately need – which is why the SDG2000 list is essential to ensuring transparency and scrutiny of the world’s most significant companies. We must strengthen corporate accountability and make the impact of companies consequential to their success.
While governments around the world are responsible for achieving SDGs within their borders, business action is voluntary. And yet there is no way we can reach these goals without the might of the corporate world. With the clock ticking, businesses must get back on track.
Accountability requires transparency from leading companies. Of the SDG2000 companies, only 122 disclose all the relevant data. Companies headquartered in Europe and North America, accounting for just over half the SDG2000 list, make up over three quarters of those disclosing full data. Almost all companies disclosing all information are publicly listed but there were also four privately owned companies (Cargill, Charoen Pokphand Group, Elsewedy Electric and Ferrero) showing that private ownership does not need to be a barrier.
Some companies are leading the way. WBA carried out eight benchmarks in 2023. Two of the benchmarks assessed energy companies where the Nordic headquartered companies Ørsted and Neste were climate leaders; both commit to Net Zero by 2040. Ørsted, a Danish energy company is a consistent top performer, taking actions such as committing 100% of its CapEx to low-carbon technologies, and aiming to reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 98% by 2025, compared to a 2006 baseline.
The SDG2000 list is refined every year, as the companies with the most influence changes. As the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) grows, digital is a sector that needs to develop with transparency and accountability built in. WBA’s Collective Impact Coalition for Digital Inclusion has been focusing on driving progress on corporate commitment to ethical AI principles. To date, 52 digital companies – only a quarter of those included as most influential in the world – have adopted ethical AI principles, the first step. Only three companies (Deutsche Telekom, Microsoft, and Telefónica) meet all eight of WBA’s ethical AI criteria.
Starting at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting, WBA is calling on the SDG2000 companies to act, and their stakeholders to hold them accountable.