UNDP Launches New Study on Business Awareness of the SDGs

July 17, 2020

Beijing, July 17 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a report today in Beijing which serves as a baseline analysis of business awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As a first of its kind in China, the report aims to provide business leaders a glimpse of how companies are engaging with the SDGs in China, which areas matter the most, the future trends and how – beyond normal business practices – companies can help societies to recover from shocks and crises, such as COVID-19.

As a joint effort with PwC China and the China Chamber of International Commerce (CCOIC), the Report, entitled “Private Sector Awareness of the SDGs” utilized online questionnaires for self-reporting and in-depth interviews for case studies, drawing a comprehensive analysis on the current understanding and activities of sustainable development in selected enterprises including foreign-owned companies operating in China across different industries. Its findings provide insight on how best to gear businesses towards the SDGs and the challenges that must be overcome to do so.

“Two thirds of the funding, resources and technology needed to meet the SDGs globally must come from corporations,” said Beate Trankmann, UNDP Resident Representative in China. “To truly make poverty history, while ensuring all life on earth a future, companies must align their priorities with the SDGs and invest in a more sustainable world.” she added.

The findings in the report indicate that 89 percent of Chinese enterprises surveyed are aware of the SDGs, and that incorporating sustainable practices can increase brand value while also providing positive social, economic or environmental impact. Yet 42 percent of businesses do not yet know how to measure their contributions and impacts towards them.

The report comes at a crucial time, when all countries are responding to COVID-19, and businesses around the globe are taking action in support. In this regard, a special section was dedicated to highlight how the private sector in China has been responding, reviewing private sector action from an SDG lens.  This includes building an epidemic information management system to help government departments track contact (SDG3), using drones to deliver needed medical supplies (SDG11), and increasing access to online education (SDG4).    

The report also found that Chinese companies prioritize the SDGs differently than the international norm; while Chinese businesses prefer to focus on health and education, globally, companies tend to prioritize decent work and climate action.

The report, as a mapping of private sector awareness of the SDGs, creates a baseline of current objectives, strategies and practices of enterprises in China. This aims to facilitate future initiatives that further align the private sector with the SDGs; ultimately, to foster a paradigm shift of 21st century companies from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices to indicator-driven SDG impact management.

Key recommendations are provided, including the need to take a top down look at the Board of Directors (DOC) level, create a clear framework for integrating impact on the SDGs into business and investment decision making, and use indicator-based evidence for reporting and disclosure.

The report stresses that as business alignment with the SDGs can avoid potential risks, enterprises should identify and define opportunities and risks at the Board of Director level, create a task force to coordinate cross-board collaboration within the corporation with clear responsibilities.

“Formulating forward-looking sustainable development strategies can help enterprises effectively prevent and manage risks, including climate risk,” said James Chang, China Consulting Leader, PwC China. “Transforming the SDGs into quality projects, evaluating the effectiveness of corporate SDG practices, and sharing SDG progress and achievements will become the focus,” he added.

Findings also highlight that integrating the SDGs and investing for a more sustainable world is also good for business. It carries proven business benefits, including improved efficiency, greater employee retention, more engaging branding and stronger risk management. Currently, 10 percent of Chinese businesses surveyed have already conducted SDG actions and 38 percent are planning relevant initiatives.

“This report is of great significance in promoting the integration of the SDGs in Chinese business practices,” said Jianlong Yu, Secretary General, CCOIC. “It can lead to the exploration of future commercial opportunities, identification of innovative development strategies and transformation of enterprises.”

Download the report here.

For more information and interview requests, please contact:

Beijing: Yue Zhao, yue.zhao@undp.org, +86 185 1111 0464