Welcome to the new B Lab Global website. Looking for B Lab U.S. and Canada? Visit usca.bcorporation.net us-canada-right-arrow

B Lab report: Companies need to do more to make real progress on the SDGs possible

Press Release
By B Lab Global
September 1, 2021

To meet the 2030 Agenda, B Lab calls on businesses to make targeted actions, including making needed improvements on their business model, supply chain and collective action efforts; adopting company-level stakeholder governance models; and supporting broader efforts to shift the corporate landscape from shareholder primacy.

NEW YORK, 1 September 2021 — Despite declarations of progress, business action and performance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is not strategic or bold enough to achieve them by 2030, as shared in a report released today by B Lab, a global network of organizations transforming the global economic system. In its first report on business action on the SDGs, B Lab highlights tools for business, including using the SDG Action Manager to set goals and track progress on the SDGs and adopting stakeholder governance models to require the consideration of stakeholders in their decision making, to turn this trend around.

The result of an inclusive global consultation, the SDGs are a collection of 17 interconnected goals adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 to rally around a common global agenda to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure a shared and durable prosperity for all. As part of this collective call to action, businesses have a new “north star” regarding their sustainability performance for a world in constant change, and must recognize the significant business opportunity that the SDGs offer, as well as the risk of not addressing the core social and environmental issues of our time.

For the report, B Lab examined usage data of the SDG Action Manager from its launch in January 2020 through May 2021. Developed by B Lab and the UN Global Compact, the SDG Action Manager is an impact management solution for businesses to make progress on the SDGs. More than 15,000 companies have engaged with the SDG Action Manager since launch, but for purposes of this analysis, data is based on the over 1,700 companies, from all over the world and in a wide range of industries and company sizes, that have completed the Baseline module and at least one SDG module. They include, but are not limited to, Certified B Corporations and UN Global Compact signatories.

The report expands on other analyses on business action on the SDGs by incorporating a broader cross-section of business, including both privately held and publicly traded, and from all sizes sector and regions around the world; and providing a unique look at engagement and performance in a practical way, since companies have utilized the SDG Action Manager for their own internal management, not specifically to respond to a public survey as with other reports.

“The 2030 Agenda is ambitious, but necessary in order to realize an economic system that benefits all people, communities and the planet,” said Dan Osusky, Head of Standards and Insights at B Lab. “We hope this report can provide proof of tangible steps businesses are taking on the SDGS, direction for targeted business action on the most impactful aspects of a business—its business model, supply chain and collective action efforts—and signal for the need for both more individual action and a broader shift to our economic system to one that benefits all stakeholders.”

“The 2030 Agenda is ambitious, but necessary in order to realize an economic system that benefits all people, communities and the planet,” said Dan Osusky, Head of Standards and Insights at B Lab. “We hope this report can provide proof of tangible steps businesses are taking on the SDGS, direction for targeted business action on the most impactful aspects of a business—its business model, supply chain and collective action efforts—and signal for the need for both more individual action and a broader shift to our economic system to one that benefits all stakeholders.”

Key insights from the report include:

  • Companies are focused on easy, less impactful changes to their internal operations: When looking at the percentage of points earned by aspect of the business, companies performed better on their internal operations (41%) versus their business model (32%), supply chain (30%), or collective action efforts (29%). Similar trends exist when looking at the number of goals set by each aspect of the business, where companies set significantly more goals around their internal operations.

  • The emergence of stakeholder governance: Among the most frequent goals for improvement set across all SDGs is for a business to fundamentally shift their own governance structure to require the consideration of stakeholders in their decision making.

  • Best performing SDGs: SDGs with the highest percentage of points earned on their corresponding SDG Action Manager module are Goal 4: Quality Education (40%), Goal 1: No Poverty (40%), Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth (39%), and Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption (39%).

  • Worst performing SDGs: SDGs with the lowest percentage of points earned on their corresponding SDG Action Manager module are Goal 14: Life Below Water (24%), Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation (25%), and Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy (25%).

  • Industry performance on climate action: Based on the percentage of points earned in the SDG Action Manager module for Goal 13: Climate Action, industries performing the worst on climate action are Software publishing and SaaS, other info service activities, manufacturing, engineering, and professional, scientific, and tech.

  • Negative business impacts on gender equality: Goal 5: Gender Equality has the highest reported risk of negative business impacts and is also the tenth best performing SDG, which indicates that more efforts from businesses are necessary in this SDG.

  • Different prioritization trends exist across different regions: When looking at the percentage of companies in each region that have completed all of the questions in an SDG Action Manager module, Goal 1: No Poverty has a greater priority for companies in Latin America (73%), Asia & Pacific (62%), and Africa (68%); Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy for companies in Arab States (80%); and Goal 8: Decent Work & Economic Growth for companies in Europe (64%) and North America (67%).

This report was developed with generous financial support from Generation Foundation, Emmanuel Faber, Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To access “How Businesses Are Engaging, Performing, & Improving on the Sustainable Development Goals: Key Insights from the SDG Action Manager,” visit this link.

About B Lab:  B Lab is transforming the global economy to benefit all people, communities, and the planet. A leader in economic systems change, our global network creates standards, policies, tools, and programs for business, and we certify companies—known as B Corps—who are leading the way. To date, our community includes 280,000 workers in over 4,000 B Corps across 77 countries and 153 industries, and more than 150,000 companies manage their impact with the B Impact Assessment and the SDG Action Manager. To learn more and join the movement, visit https://bcorporation.net/.

Media Contact: Beelan Yonas Global Communications Manager press@bcorporation.net

SDG Action Manager, SDGs, Insights from B Lab, press release

B Labs Logo - Home Link

Sign up to our Insights newsletter, a monthly digest of the latest news on economic systems change from B Lab Global.

We take the security of your data seriously, read our privacy policy for further information. For newsletter communications relating to your local region, please visit Global Partner sites to subscribe.

Copyright © 2022 B Lab. All rights reserved.