Final Consultation Publication

Page 1

Consultation on the World Benchmarking Alliance












September 2018

Foreword A year after Aviva, the UN Foundation and Index Initiative launched the World Benchmarking

We would like to express our appreciation to all of those – both near and far – who have

Alliance’s global consultation phase, we now celebrate the launch of a new independent

been involved in the global consultations. A special thank you to the Danish, Dutch and UK

institution – the WBA. This institution will publish free, publicly available benchmarks that

governments for funding and supporting this work, as well as all stakeholders and participants

will rank companies on their performance and incentivise business action towards achieving

who have been involved in our consultation phase. You have welcomed, encouraged and

the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The WBA aims to empower everyone, from

challenged us to test our thinking and assumptions, not in isolation, but rather by integrating

consumers to investors and company boardrooms, to build a movement that will bring about

open dialogue into the growth of the WBA and the Alliance. This has given all of us a sense of

the future we want.

what it really means and requires to work in the spirit of SDG 17: Partnership for the goals.

Over the past 12 months, we have seen first-hand that together we are greater than the sum

While the consultation phase has come to a close and this publication exists as something

of our parts. From New York to Nairobi, we have worked with partners and Allies to listen

material, the dialogue will continue. Learning will remain at the heart of our work so that the

to and mobilise a global community of over 10,000 advocates and supporters, including over

WBA and its benchmarks can truly empower financial institutions, governments, civil society,

70 Allies from leading civil society organisations, business platforms, financial and academic

companies and individuals with valuable data and insights to engage in the SDGs and take action.

institutions. While this is a good start, we know that the real work is just beginning, as we strive to scale our efforts and deepen our impact. This publication is the accumulation of insights, findings and experiences from the past year – not only our own, but also those of the stakeholders and Allies we have consulted. After listening to all voices throughout the global consultation phase, we collected these reflections, interviews, blogs and analyses. The trails of our journey have been articulated in multiple forms, which we hope have captured, to some extent, the scope of our learning.


Support for the World Benchmarking Alliance

“ We need more businesses of all sizes and investors to embrace the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Benchmarks can translate the SDGs into a business and innovation agenda, creating clarity on the unique role and abilities of companies to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries. Clarity on the role of business will equally demonstrate where we as governments must step up.” Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation, Denmark

“ EAT is proud to be a strategic partner to the WBA consultations and supports the development of metrics and indicators capturing the full range of co-benefits of sustainable and healthy diets. Competition makes us faster, collaboration makes us better. The WBA aims to do both. By ranking companies based on their contribution to the SDGs, competitive benchmarking can be a powerful catalyst for change.” Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, Founder & President, EAT Foundation

“ ...demand [for green finance] can be further enhanced through the work of the World Benchmarking Alliance... [which] will incentivise corporates to improve their sustainability performance, help educate people about how their money is invested, and how they can exert their influence to stimulate demand through the investment chain.” UK Green Finance Taskforce, March 2018


“ The world needs business and leaders to step up, speak out, and act on the defining challenges of our time - climate change, the inclusion of women as leaders & drivers of change, and genuine equality. Benchmarks can credit those who do, and inspire others to act.� Sam Mostyn, Company Director, Non-Executive Director, Chair (Citibank Australia), and Sustainability Adviser

Leading Canadian and G7 Investors come together in support of global development initiatives and reference the WBA as a way to help the integration of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) into their investment process. G7 Investors Global Initiative, June 2018



The global journey

Table of content

Establishing the World Benchmarking Alliance

Kicking-off the dialogue on SDG focussed corporate benchmarks


Gathering views on SDGs, industries and SDG corporate benchmarks


Young people and the sustainability agenda: three avenues for impact


Key insights on the global consultations



The Alliance

Growing the Alliance: From an ambition to reality


Nurturing culture and leadership with the Alliance


SDG corporate benchmarks

Leaving no company behind

The five reasons benchmarks work


Centring benchmarks around the SDGs and industries


Developing the methodology to build a benchmark



SDG-industry intersections

Identifying critical links between industries and the SDGs: The SDG-industry intersections map

Prioritising SDGs and industries for a better world


Exploring the connection between SDGs and industries for a better world


Guiding principles






126 7

Establishing the World Benchmarking Alliance


In 2015, world leaders from 193 countries came together to adopt the

To deliver on that promise by 2030, the SDGs require concerted action by all stakeholders,

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals and their

including governments, business, civil society and individuals. The goals cannot be achieved

corresponding targets are a call to action for a sustainable and more inclusive future where no one is left behind – and are the milestones marking the path to the future we want.

without strong commitment from the private sector to work with government and civil society to deliver the solutions and investments needed to achieve them. Fortunately, business and investors have taken notice of the critical linkages between purpose and profit, and many leading companies say they are already integrating the SDGs into their business strategies.1 However, much more needs to be done to encourage and enable business to deliver innovative solutions at the scale and pace needed to realise long-term impact. In early 2017, the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) recognised that the private sector can help unlock the US$5-7 trillion2 in annual investment needed to deliver the SDGs. It also highlighted that the SDGs could unlock more than US$12 trillion a year in business savings and revenues and have the potential to create up to 380 million new jobs by 2030.3 Benchmarking companies as a driver for change The BSDC challenged the private sector to be more ambitious in its efforts to advance the SDGs. However, any information or analysis surrounding corporate sustainability performance is hard to compare or access, making it difficult to credit leaders and hold laggards to account.


The founding partners of the WBA

The Business & Sustainable Development Commission

The story of how the WBA’s founding partners came together is not much different than when

recognises the accountability challenge and recommends

a group of people meet to assemble pieces of a large puzzle. This puzzle, however, is unlike

action in its Better Business, Better World report.4 • We strongly support creation of corporate Global Goal benchmarks that harmonise and build on existing corporate reporting requirements & frameworks. • Once companies report consistent data over time, comparable with others within their respective sectors, benchmarks can be developed. • From this position, there will be a short step towards “league tables” for progress towards achieving greater alignment with the Global Goals. • This would for the first time enable leaders and boards of companies, policymakers, civil society and investors to quickly and easily compare relative performance of companies within a sector, over time, on a range of relevant Global Goals. • This process would need to be governed by an independent, non-political institution to ensure no conflicts of interest from the private or public sector.

anything ever seen before. It is extremely ambitious, responding to the SDG’s call for a better world during a period of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

viva is a multinational insurance company who has identified a critical role for sustainable A investments in the SDGs. It believes in the strong influence of benchmarks to prompt in-depth dialogues with companies on their sustainability performance to reform capital markets and direct money to where it matters most.

Index Initiative, a non-profit organisation based in Amsterdam, seeks to propel the use of benchmarks to engage companies in advancing the SDGs. It strives to bring clarity to the role and performance of companies in contributing to the goals most relevant to their core business, while providing stakeholders and the wider public with free and accessible research and benchmarks.

The UN Foundation connects people, ideas and resources with the United Nations to mobilise the energy and expertise of business and non-governmental organisations in tackling global issues. Its work is guided by a belief in the power of partnerships and an understanding that transformative change requires transformative approaches to problem-solving.

Though they are three different types of organisations based in different countries, these institutions share the beliefs that the private sector can strongly contribute to, as well as benefit from, the global ambition of the SDGs and that corporate performance benchmarks are powerful levers for change. For all three partners, SDG-centred benchmarks were a missing piece of the


puzzle, and the WBA represented an opportunity that could not be missed to fill that gap.

Moving from words to action Over the past year, Aviva, Index Initiative and the UN Foundation have been working to consult

These common beliefs ultimately brought the founding partners together. Index Initiative published

on the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA). Through collaboration with all stakeholders,

a landscape study Unravelling the Role of the Private Sector in September 2015 and was

the WBA aims to fill the accountability gap in measuring corporate performance in relation

conducting a scoping research to find the critical SDG-industry intersections where corporate

to the SDGs. This will enable stakeholders to exert their full influence and enable the private

benchmarks would have most impact. Aviva was championing corporate league tables for the

sector to play its role in delivering the SDGs.

BSDC’s Better Business, Better World report released in January 2017. Aware of both ambitions, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) introduced Aviva and Index Initiative.

The WBA envisions a world where competition drives performance and a company’s success

The UN Foundation, also involved closely with BSDC, joined Aviva and the Index Initiative and

is determined by its measurable contribution to society. Through free, publicly available

the path towards WBA was set into motion.

benchmarks, the WBA aims to realise a new future in which consumers have the information they need to choose where to spend their money, investors have access to reliable data to

Support from the Dutch government enabled Index Initiative to perform their initial scoping

assess the impact of their investments, and governments and civil society have strong corporate

exercise. Support from the Danish and UK governments during the roundtable consultations

partnerships to drive meaningful policy change and responsible advocacy.

has proven instrumental in forming the WBA. These countries’ involvement has expanded the reach of conversations about the WBA and strengthened its purpose, by connecting the

The WBA’s vision is bold, ambitious and – admittedly – a little nerve-racking! With just 12

Alliance with similar initiatives already in place not only to encourage it, but also constructively

years until the world must meet its 2030 objective to achieve the SDGs, the stakes are high

challenge its objectives.

and the runway for success is increasingly getting shorter. To develop these transformative benchmarks and create value for all, the WBA must look to build partnerships, progress,

In addition to the founding partners and supporting governments, a diverse range of stakeholders

and plug into a global movement for change that encompasses everyone, everywhere. For

played an important role in forming the WBA. In response to the initial buzz surrounding the SDGs,

this reason, Index Initiative along with Aviva and the UN Foundation carried out an intensive

the WBA tapped into the global mass of ideas and invited stakeholders to help build momentum

consultation phase as a first step. This process was supported by the Danish, Dutch and

around the Alliance. The meeting of these like-minded organisations and the partnering of their

UK governments.

shared perspectives created a powerful synergy which quickly grew into what the WBA is today.


How the WBA Benchmarks can deliver value to stakeholders




Civil Society


Inform strategy on relevant SDGs

Analysis identifying sustainability

Multi-stakeholder platform where

Translating SDGs to an industry &

as benchmarks reflect societal

risks & opportunities, assesses

societal concerns are translated into

corporate agenda, ensuring private


company performance.

clear expectations for companies.

sector role in delivery.

Recognising leadership and

Insights for engagement with

Corporate accountability, constructive

performance, best practices and

companies, across sectors and

engagement for civil society orgs and

allows peer group comparison.

global market.


Efficiency as open, credible benchmarks

Strategic direction for allocation

Tools to amplify & reflect voice

Find potential partners for public-private

become accepted by all, reducing

of capital, in support of SDGs &

of civil society across entire private

partnerships focused on specific

duplication in ratings and reporting.

sustainable markets.


sustainable development outcomes.

Public institution that, through transparency and accountability, helps to align business with interests of society.

“ The ultimate goal is that all companies report on their contribution to the SDGs. This allows us to compare commitments and performance to our peers and shows us where we must improve.� Paul Polman, CEO Unilever & BSDC Co-chair


Kicking-off the dialogue on SDG focused corporate benchmarks


Benchmarks and league tables only serve as powerful tools if they are

In September 2017, the WBA’s consultation phase was launched on the margins of the 72nd

considered robust, credible and are employed by a large number of actors.

UN General Assembly. This phase consisted of a series of roundtable discussions across the

In order to be an effective global institution and develop high quality benchmarks, the WBA must consult with and listen to a wide range of

world and three online surveys to gather insights from the general public, professionals and key opinion leaders and influencers in the sustainability field.

diverse voices across sectors and regions. This kind of multi-stakeholder

Listening and learning from global roundtable consultations

approach is vital to generate a greater impact towards tackling the

Roundtable consultations were developed to ensure that the WBA engaged with a diverse

complex challenges addressed by the SDGs.

and balanced group of stakeholders. The consultations were held in 10 cities over a span of 10 months in partnership with local WBA Allies. They brought together individuals from a wide range of organisations, geographies, sectors and industries to explore how the WBA could best contribute to and improve corporate sustainability performance aligned with the SDGs. Overall, these roundtable consultations helped to examine the potential for WBA benchmarks and the Alliance to drive change. These discussions offered stakeholders an opportunity to share their views around the rationale behind developing corporate sustainability benchmarks aligned with the SDGs and their added value, as well as the benefit of having a new type of independent, global institution such as the WBA. The consultations also explored which potential WBA benchmarks could have the greatest potential for sustainable, transformative impact. In addition to the strategic and practical considerations surrounding corporate sustainability performance, participants were encouraged to consider the SDGs in their local contexts. Participants from across sectors expressed their views on the numerous levels of engagement and adoption of the SDGs around the world and shared various approaches to SDG-aligned corporate sustainability that


“ A benchmark would help us understand where the gaps are for us and what stakeholders want us to focus on.” Participant at the New York roundtable

they had already experienced in that region or globally. Participants predominantly believed that the WBA benchmarks would increase stakeholder dialogue, enhance transparency and create a better understanding of the private sector’s role in advancing the SDGs. The discussion format was open and inclusive, designed to create a space where participants would feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and insights. The conversation was led by independent facilitators, while remaining flexible and responsive to participants’ priority topics. Some examples of the guiding questions are: - How do you see companies in this region integrating the SDGs into their business? - How can corporate SDG benchmarks be designed to ensure they create value for both stakeholders and the companies being assessed? - Where do you see the critical intersections between the SDGs and industries in the region? - Which global and regional institutions do you think should be involved in the WBA’s work? - How do we ensure all stakeholders, particularly in developing and emerging economies, can help to shape and use the benchmarks? This extensive engagement over the last year ensures that the WBA benchmarks will truly embed what consumers, NGOs, investors, governments and companies themselves hope to see in an SDG-aligned performance assessment. Though the consultation phase has ended, the dialogue will continue as future benchmarks are scoped and developed. The WBA’s comprehensive approach could fundamentally improve the quality of multi-stakeholder engagement and help businesses align their sustainability objectives with society’s expectations.


“ Our idea is simple. We turn the SDGs into a corporate competitive sport. We draw up transparent data on performance and impact towards meeting the SDGs, and we rank companies according to how well they are doing. This will motivate a race to the top, which is what the proposed World Benchmarking Alliance is all about.� Mark Wilson, CEO Aviva & BSDC Commissioner







The roundtable consultations Voices from all sides of the table In building the stakeholder consultation, the underlying principle was to be truly consultative - taking an open, transparent, inclusive and balanced approach - with the process very much focussed on us listening than talking! I hope participants felt that this reflected their experience; that their input is valued and that they have a hand in how the WBA develops and the benchmarks progress. Over the last year, we heard many folks comment that that their conversations together were hugely valuable, that they weren’t often in the same room



“ London 4 December 2017 “ If you want to change corporate mindsets, you should target the CEOs and board members, not just the sustainability departments.”

“ New York 19 September 2017

Roundtable participant

“ A benchmark would help us understand where the gaps are for us and what stakeholders want us to focus on.”




“ Kuala Lumpur 5 February 2018 “ It was great to see a real mixture of participants in attendance, and the WBA’s emphasis on cross-sectoral engagement not only drove the conversation in new ways but also highlighted common core-values within us all; of the importance of creating sustainable change and protecting the people and planet of which that change is so reliant on.” Interview with roundtable participant Sheila Halim, CEO of Amanah Mutual Berhad


Roundtable participant



“ Jakarta 29 October 2017 “ Companies should be held accountable for the real impact they create.”

and would look at continuing these.

Roundtable participant

For me, that’s a true sign of success.


Kirsty Collins


Lead Engagement Index Initiative


“ Cape Town 12 February 2018 “ For corporates, it is the benefit of being on top of the ranks and getting more investments. For others, it is about progress on the SDGs which will benefit everyone.” Roundtable participant




“ Amsterdam


30 April 2018

26 February 2018 Laila Macharia, serial entrepreneur and angel investor, opened the roundtable by stating that when thinking about businesses in East Africa, participants should not only think of the large multinationals but also about the ‘mama mboga’ – the women selling vegetables on the roadside. These women, and other informal sellers, are representative of the small, informal businesses that make up a large part of the Kenyan economy and should remind us that there is very little divide between businesses and the people. Because of this, we must be very clear on who ‘bears the burden for change’.


“ Open up. Learn from each other. Don’t be afraid of the outside world. Look for the future needs of society and integrate it in your core business.”

Mumbai 14 March 2018 Since 2014, companies in India with annual revenues of more than 10 billion rupees have to spend 2 percent of their average net profits on CSR activities. One of the participants noted that: “In India, we don’t like to do philanthropy in our business. That’s why we turned it into a law.”


Opening remarks by Richard Kooloos, Director of Sustainable Banking ABN AMRO

27 “ Buenos Aires

“ Washington

20 March 2018

20 April 2018

“ I think the WBA has a Herculean task ahead, particularly here in Argentina. Having said that, I do feel that competition matters in the private sector. I believe benchmarks can challenge the role of business here in my region.” Interview with roundtable participant Alejandra Camara, Managing Director of GENESIS and advisor in green finance to the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, BCBA


“ In all of the 17 goals, we are at a point where the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action.” Opening remarks by Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever



10+ Outreach events and discussions with key stakeholders, Allies Brussels, Paris (OECD), Geneva (UN Women, UNEPFI), Shenzhen (ISCG 2017), Davos, Singapore, Tokyo, Bonn (COP 23 & Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development, Montreux (with WBCSD), Oslo (with S-Hub and hosted by Dutch Embassy), Mumbai (hosted by Dutch Minister), Copenhagen (hosted by the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation), Stockholm, Rome (with the Global Foundation)


“ The WBA helps to drive forward capital market reform� Pauliina Murphy Head of International Government Engagement, Aviva WBA Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


Benchmarks and league-tables with transparency and openness at their very

The WBA is neither opt-in, nor opt-out, which means those companies that

core have the power to change the way in which we look at and understand

have the biggest impact on sustainability will be in scope and measured.

business. This will help to transform our societies and the world.

As an investor, Aviva will use the results to have a dialogue with companies about their sustainability issues and where improvements need to be made.

If that’s the starting point, what is there not to like or get behind? Establishing the WBA has been a bold ambition from the beginning. But as one of the

This dialogue – be it between investors and companies, within companies

concrete and actionable ideas supporting the SDGs, it has truly captured the

or with civil society – is a unique attribute of the WBA. The dialogue itself

imagination of many, including Aviva. It doesn’t require a policy change or

starts to force the change in the system, and we can start to measure impact

legislation, which means we can move at a quick pace and create the type of

from day one. The spotlight on the best and worst performers comes later,

organisation our Allies want to support and be a part of.

with the publication of the rankings, but the journey itself starts much earlier.

And this is what we have been doing. We’ve run a global consultation and

For our Allies, the finding that the dialogue itself creates the impact should

brought together partners to discuss the SDGs and what they need to be

be one of the most compelling. Without them, the dialogue isn’t nearly as

achieved. Our Guiding Principles state that the WBA is collaborative and

powerful as it needs to be. This is why Aviva is building the WBA and helping

inclusive. It’s an initiative shaped by the Allies, because it’s never going to be

to drive it forward. We truly believe in its potential to change the world for

successful and have the transformational impact it needs to have if it’s only

the better.

“ The dialogue itself starts to force the change in the system, and we can start to measure impact from day one.”

the product of the three founding organisations. For Aviva, the WBA helps to drive forward capital market reform. This is what we need in order to move money to where it’s needed the most.


Gathering views on SDGs, industries and corporate SDG benchmarks


To ensure the consultation phase was truly inclusive, the team developed

The general public survey

and launched online surveys which focused on three complementary target

A short survey opening with ‘How would you change the world?’ invited individuals from

groups: the general public, professionals and key opinion leaders and influencers in the sustainability field. The online consultations launched in November 2017 and remained open to the close of consultation in April 2018.

across the globe to share what they value in a better world and how they would propose achieving their vision. The survey asked which issues and corresponding SDGs respondents believed should be tackled first, and which industry they considered to be the most impactful for advancing on that SDG. The survey generated responses from 9,865 individuals across 145 countries and was available in five languages: English, French, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese. The survey also gathered socio-demographic data, including age, gender and country of residence, which provided valuable insights on the varied priorities among different groups of people.


53% Asia

15% Europe

11% Latin America & the Caribbean

7% Middle East & North Africa

5% Unspecified

2% Oceania

4% North America

You can find more information on the SDG-industry intersections at ‘Prioritising SDGs and industries for a better world’.


To reach individuals beyond the networks of the WBA founding partners and WBA Allies, the team engaged 50 online influencers who promoted the survey to their followers. These influencers, based across the world, also brought their own passions to SDG-related issues, such as sustainable fashion and women’s empowerment. Integrating their unique communication and outreach styles, they helped to make the SDGs more approachable. They also offered a space for people to consider how the issues addressed by the SDGs are impacting them and their communities on a daily basis. The general public survey provided extremely valuable insight to the diversity of thoughts, concerns and opinions on the SDGs. While the roundtable consultations engaged a broad spectrum of civil society organisations, financial institutions, multilateral organisation and industry, the general public survey has been particularly successful in engaging young people – over two-thirds of the respondents were below the age of 25.

Together with ‘Influencer Marketing Agency’ in Amsterdam we engaged with 50 online influencers across the world. Through mostly Instagram posts and stories we reached a total of 2.2 million campaign impressions.

See ‘Young people and the sustainability agenda: three avenues for impact’ for more insights from our youth engagement. 24

A 5,000-strong survey campaign in China The WBA partnered with Bei Wang and YouThink on the ‘How would you change the world?’ survey in China, which gathered more than 5,000 responses. YouThink is a China-based organisation that aims to educate young people on global issues and opportunities, collaborating on projects that empower them to participate in and drive change at local, regional and global levels. Bei Wang and Alex Wang, who helped increase Chinese participation in the online consultations, share their experiences. During this campaign, the general public survey was branded as #futurevote.

“I am extremely happy with the results which have gone beyond my expectations. I believe this shows that sustainability is very relevant for China, and I am looking forward to seeing how our partnership will evolve in the future. My approach to outreach was divided into two stages. I began by contacting several organisations who, due to the relevance and accessible nature of the content, helped to generate a buzz around the survey quite extensively. It was during this process that I contacted Alex Wang from YouThink; an organisation where I saw many similarities with the WBA in their mission and values to increase action in the key sustainability challenges of our time. When we initially designed the survey, I was eager to position youth as a key source for outreach. The younger generations play a central role in the growing momentum of sustainability in China and act as a bridge to the older generations.”

Bei Wang

media and communications strategist for China

” 25

“We believe that the SDGs represent a vision of the future – our future, as young people. YouThink helps to generate ownership of the future through creating meaningful action. We work with 17 partner organisations and connected with roughly 400 members and volunteers for this survey. I was eager for us to work with the WBA’s #futurevote survey, as I believe it signals the opportunity to start a global conversation on the future of our planet through the SDGs. The survey is very effective here in China. As Bei mentioned, the graphic design and simple layout make it easy for people to interact with the content, which in turn makes it easier for our YouThink volunteers to build public engagement. Our work was predominantly based online and utilised our vast networks of young people across China. I believe online networks are a powerful means to build and discover new SDG dialogues, and I am intrigued to see how the WBA can build on this as they work towards launching their first benchmarks.”

Alex Wang


” 26

“ I am excited about being a part of an institution that’s committed to encouraging learning, experimentation, and continual growth – all while remaining open, honest, and transparent – to solve some of the greatest challenges facing our world.” Pratik Desai Senior Officer, Policy & Private Sector Engagement, UN Foundation WBA Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


The professionals survey

The sustainability influencers survey

The professionals survey was developed to create a bridge between the global roundtable

In partnership with GlobeScan, views from key opinion leaders and influencers in the

consultations and the general public survey. While it included the questions asked in the

sustainability field were also surveyed, to gather perspectives on new SDG-orientated bench-

general public survey, this survey went deeper with additional questions on performance

marks, approach and methodology. The survey was developed for and focused on an

benchmarking, methodology and institutional design. WBA Allies and partners shared the

audience of highly experienced professionals with expertise in sustainability-related topics

survey with their networks and beyond to gather views and generate discussion, receiving

across academia, civil society, companies, specialist consultancies, thought leaders and

over 350 responses.

advisors - gathering 445 respondents.

“The global roundtable consultations address similar topics covered in the online consultations, bringing together varying participants from multiple sectors through open group discussions and brainstorms. Reflections on stakeholder priorities, benchmark design and the Alliance are addressed alongside regional contexts and concerns. It’s a complex, but exciting process, and each consultation channel strengthens the other.� Lisanne Urlings Lead Research Index Initiative WBA Co-founder


“The lack of good, long-term leadership is a major challenge to the sustainability agenda” An interview with

Chris Coulter

co-CEO, and

Eric Whan Director, of GlobeScan

GlobeScan helped the WBA to collect insights from sustainability experts by gauging their

Whan expressed that it was evident that a broad group of companies are already engaging

attitudes towards new SDG-orientated benchmarks and requesting their views on the

with the SDG agenda, using it as an organising framework and aligning their existing

best approach and methodology for developing these benchmarks. Chris Coulter, co-CEO

strategies to one or more of the Global Goals. While the survey insights are encouraging,

of GlobeScan, described this experience as “kindred spirits putting our heads together”

SDG involvement will prove ineffective on a large scale without ensuring that large

and explained that although the idea of ranking organisations already existed, the special

companies are also on board. “We have a ticking timebomb with the issues that the SDGs

attention to the SDGs was unique. “The WBA’s focus on filling the corporate gaps around

seek to solve. We have an emboldened and engaged civil society, but it lacks the power

the SDGs is very timely, and we are especially impressed with the coalition approach the

and authority to drive it forward. The real challenge lies with governance, from politicians

Alliance has taken,” he said. Eric Whan, a Director at GlobeScan, also commended the WBA

to more long-term corporate leadership,” emphasised Coulter. The need for stronger

for its broad-based effort and for pursuing such a large-scale engagement during the

leadership is pressing, without which the SDGs will never be achieved. Coulter stated that

consultation phase. “The more people we have at the table, the better. It can only contribute

“If the WBA provides clarity on the role of the private sector through the development of

to success” Whan affirmed.

benchmarks, and if companies and investors engage in the right way to mobilise support for strong and not weak performers, then a big opportunity lies ahead.”

” 29

Perspectives of the roundtable facilitators


Mary Moore

Anne Owen “ Sitting in a circle in a large conference room, a the end of 6 hours of intense conversation, both formal and informal, we decided to abandon the plan of gathering content answers to yet one more question, and instead simply ask everyone what they had personally got from the consultation experience. What happened then was very touching: so many had shifted their perceptions and stereotypes, learned something completely new about others, or forged a connection with someone unexpected. I really felt that even in these early stages, we had created a little more alignment, a little more common ground at a human and organisation level which would move our agenda forward. And that this was as important as the valuable data we had collected.”

“ I have a dream that the WBA will grow like the water in a wave rises and envelopes all as it approaches the shore. Built on an alliance of people and organisations with shared values and vision for a world where people collaborate and partner to overcome the challenges we face. It has started by creating the space and opportunity for conversation and dialogue amongst people of different view, nationality, creed, interest and geography. WBA will focus on developing the conversation where people through genuine dialogue work together to build a jointly owned bench-marking infrastructure for the SDG’s. This will be embraced and utilised by organisations, government and civil society to facilitate rapid progress towards the achievement of the sustainable world that is at the heart of their shared vision.”

Ros Wilson “ At the end of facilitating a highly participative, vibrant roundtable in Mumbai, I looked around the room and saw each member of the WBA team deeply engaged in taking things further – from tweeting and blogging the event, to engaging potential allies, to answering yet more questions, the level of commitment was immense and impressive, and I felt a strong sense of pride that I could contribute my skills to this venture.” 31

Young people and the sustainability agenda: Three avenues for impact


Age of respondents - general public survey

Today’s youth population is larger than ever, with 1.8 billion people between the ages of 10 and 24, and approximately 90 percent are living in less

2% < 14

1% < 14

3% < 14

66% 15 - 24

78% 15 - 24

53% 15 - 24

developed countries5. The 2030 Agenda recognises that young people have a strong ability to drive change, and more than one-third of the SDG’s targets involve youth explicitly or implicitly. Also, young people are often the group most affected by changes within their communities. However, they are rarely offered a seat at the table and, consequently, left out of the decision-making processes about their future.

21% 25 - 34

16% 25 - 34 Given that young people are the guardians of the planet’s future, the WBA believes it is the consultation phase, the general public survey offered young people a platform to express

78 percent of respondents in China alone (see Figure 1).

5% 45 - 54

6% 35 - 44

their concerns and ensure that they have a voice – one that is genuinely heard. Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 represented 66 percent of respondents globally and

7% 35 - 44

12% 25 - 34

imperative to listen closely to their concerns and take heed of what they have to say. During

4% 45 - 54 2% 55 - 64 3% unspecified

1% > 65 World

4% 55 - 64 1% > 65

5% 35 - 44 3% 45 - 54 1% 55 - 64 China

6% unspecified World (excl. China)



What do you feel is the number one priority to make the world a better place in 2030?

52% A Sustainable Environment

31% A Sustainable Society

17% A Sustainable Economy



58% A Sustainable Environment

23% A Sustainable Society

19% A Sustainable Economy


43% A Sustainable Environment

44% A Sustainable Society

13% A Sustainable Economy


When asked “What do you feel is the number one priority to make the world a better place in

Respondents across all age groups in Asia, Europe and North America reflected similar beliefs

2030?”, a majority of respondents aged 15-24 said “a sustainable environment” (see Figure 2).

as the young people from those regions did, prioritising “a sustainable environment” first,

Around one-third of youth believed that “a sustainable society” would make the world a better

then “a sustainable society”, followed by “a sustainable economy.” In the Middle East and

place, and only 17 percent prioritised “a sustainable economy”. In China, a majority of young

North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Oceania, nearly half of respondents aged

people prioritised “a sustainable environment” (see Figure 3), while those living in other parts of

15-34 said that “a sustainable society” was their number one priority, while those 35 years

the world were almost equally split between “a sustainable environment” and “a sustainable

and older were more likely to choose “a sustainable environment.” In sub-Saharan Africa,

society” as their top priority (see Figure 4).

intergenerational differences were less pronounced; most age groups tended to prioritise

“ We are at the forefront of being impacted. We are the beneficiaries and we also have the most to lose.” Participant at the Youth roundtable

“a sustainable environment”, with the exception of those between 35-44 years old, who said

Though the SDGs are focusing the world’s attention towards 2030, the youth consultation

“a sustainable society” was their top priority.

highlighted that today’s young people are already taking immediate action to emphasise the urgency of ensuring a better tomorrow.

The general public online survey was complemented by the WBA’s youth consultation, which consisted of two youth-led WBA roundtables. This consultation was held on the margins of the

Young people as consumers

UN SDG Action Campaign’s ‘Global Festival of Action for Sustainable Development’ in Bonn earlier

Millennials are arguably considered the world’s most powerful consumers6. As young people

this year, where the WBA was also invited to host a booth during the Festival’s Knowledge and

look to digital platforms to expand their knowledge of consumer trends, the market responds

Innovation Fair. These activities introduced participants to the WBA’s work and vision, as well

with ever-evolving products and services. Participants at the WBA youth consultation in Bonn

as challenged them to consider which SDG-industry intersections would be the most influential.

highlighted the fact that while the consumer landscape is very crowded, the desire to buy sustainably has continued to last. Participants believed that companies should find genuine

The youth consultation demonstrated the WBA’s ability to give young people a voice and a

ways to show that sustainability is an integrated part of their mission and business, rather than

platform to address the world’s greatest challenges and opportunities for change between now

just an add-on or afterthought. Participants saw a strong link between the WBA benchmarks

and 2030, and beyond. It also confirmed that

and what young consumers want. One participant noted, “if the WBA is able to present itself

youth today have the tools and skills to influence

as something credible, a lot of people will rely on it and use it as a tool.” As mobile technology

their peers not just locally, but also across towns,

is central to many young people’s consumer habits across the world, participants felt that the

cities, countries and cultures. In harnessing the

WBA could harness the power of digital platforms to create real-world impact out of their

great power and reach of social media, young

quantitative rankings. According to participants, in order to increase the data’s relevance and

people are enthusiastically reaching out and

consumer usage, it will be essential that the information is accessible and easy to use, for example,

building like-minded communities that know no

by integrating the data into a mobile application.

borders. Although separated by long distances and cultural differences, they embrace common,

Young people as employees

heartfelt desires in wanting to see and build

According to a Deloitte survey, millennials feel a greater sense of control and influence in the

fairer, more just and more sustainable environments

workplace than they do in the wider society. The survey uses the term “the ripple effect” to

in which they and future generations can flourish.

illustrate how local, small-scale actions of individuals within a workplace can collectively


86% of surveyed millennials believe the success of a business should be measured with more than financial performance in mind, and 76% now view business as a force for positive social impact.8

impact broader societal issues7. Participants discussed how employment provides another

Young people as influencers

avenue through which young people can have an impact on the sustainability agenda, from

Another key insight from the youth consultation was that social media can accelerate change

keeping companies accountable to innovating internal business practices. In addition to

and amplify peer influence. “[Social media] influencers have a huge role to play in using their

transforming the way a company functions internally, millennials are also interested in their

platforms for building accountability.,” noted one participant. In today’s digital world, young

company’s external impact, looking at how the company works with and brings value to the

people can utilise their online networks to reflect how their own actions and the actions of

wider community. Participants felt that companies should leverage young people’s expertise

those around them can affect the broader community. Participants discussed how more and

on community issues to drive impact, for example, by holding community consultations

more companies are looking at things like media reach and social media engagement as key

facilitated by young people. The WBA can play an important role in defining and shaping

performance indicators. One participant recommended that the WBA provide not only free

the conversation around a company’s internal and external impact by communicating what

and publicly available information, but also in a format that people can easily share on social

companies are doing, what they could be doing and what the potential impacts of these

media. To tap into this opportunity, the WBA partnered with a number of social media influencers

activities might be. Participants noted that by focusing on their overall impact, companies

during its consultation phase to encourage youth participation in the general public survey.

could retain talent and expand the pool of employment prospects. Participants at the youth consultation spoke about the need to also engage younger employees who might not have received a university education and felt that the WBA offered an opportunity to include this category of low-skilled workers in the conversation. “How can you use benchmarking to engage young factory workers?” asked one participant. Another commented that “if you only use the SDGs as your vehicle, you end up with a specific demographic.” Participants believed that if the WBA wanted to drive a grass-roots approach to corporate sustainability, engagement with these groups of youth would be indispensable. “These issues may be more relatable to non-university graduates and blue-collar workers,” commented one participant, with another adding that “these goals are their shot to improve their lives.” See ‘Gathering views on SDGs, industries and corporate SDG benchmarks’ for more details of our work with online influencers.


“ Millennials’ affinity for technology is reshaping many economic sectors, particularly the retail space. With product information, reviews and price comparisons at their fingertips, millennials are turning to brands that can offer maximum convenience at the lowest cost9.�


SDG-industry intersections map from youth consultationI SDG
















Energy Materials Capital goods

“ I have one thing to say to all the young people in the room. We are the SDG generation and we are critical in implementing and reviewing the Agenda. Demand to have a seat at the table, don’t wait for an invitation. Act now, speak up and believe in your power to change the world.” Jayathma Wickramanayake, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth10

Commercial & professional services Transportation Automobiles & components Consumer durables & apparel Consumer services Media Retailing Food & staples retailing Food, beverage & tobacco Household & personal products Health care equipment & services Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology & life sciences Banks Diversified financials Insurance Information & communication technology Telecommunication services Utilities Real estate Education I


he darker the colour, the higher the number of respondents who linked that T industry to their chosen SDG.


SDG facts on youth SDG 5: Gender equality More than three quarters (76 percent) of out-of-school youth are female11. SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth Youth are almost 3 times as likely as adults to be unemployed12. The private sector is the key driver in the fight against poverty, providing 9 in 10 jobs globally13. SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure 71 percent of young people are online, compared to 48 percent of people globally. In developed countries this proportion rises to 94 percent, while reaching only 67 percent in developing countries and 30 percent in least developed countries14.

SDG-industry intersection facts on youth

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth Food, beverage and tobacco Worldwide, 60 percent of all child labourers – approximately 98 million – work in agriculture, 18 including farming, fishing, aquaculture, forestry and livestock . SDG 9: Innovation, infrastructure and development Telecommunications 71 percent of young people are online, compared to 48 percent of people globally. In developed countries, youth connectivity rises to 94 percent, though in developing countries, it falls to 67 percent and reaches only 19 30 percent in least developed countries . SDG 10: Reduced inequalities Banks Only a few financial service providers, such as banks, credit unions or microfinance institutions, understand and adequately serve the youth market, and regulatory 20 frameworks are not designed to be youth-inclusive . SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities Transport One of the top three causes of death among 21 adolescents is road traffic crashes .

SDG 1: No poverty Banks Youth are 33 percent less likely than adults to have a savings account and 44 percent less likely to save in a formal institution15.

SDG-industry intersection perspectives from the youth consultation

SDG 4: Quality education Software and services Across 65 developing countries, an average of 60 percent of primary and secondary schools have access to computers and the internet. In sub-Saharan African countries, this average is reduced to 40 percent16.

SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth Consumer services “Young people are disproportionally employed in restaurants and retail stores. It’s important that these employers provide decent conditions, including living wages and job security.”

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation Software and service One in three children in the developing world – more than 500 million – do not have access to sanitation facilities. And around 400 million children, one in five, do not have access to safe water17.

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production Consumer durables and apparel “Youth are at the forefront of driving sustainable consumption and actively engaging consumers. From an industry perspective, they are one of the biggest consumer bases.”

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions Media “Media has a huge impact on youth culture. Youth are both using media and defining it. It is a way to hold institutions and governments to account and can either create peace or divisions.”

Regional perspectives on the WBA from the Global Festival of Action Colombia “Access and financial facilities for youth’s education is one of the best solutions for providing productive opportunities.”

Brazil “Social media is where people will get information on what to buy, how to be and what is sustainable.” Nigeria “We need more strategic communication through education and better engagement to achieve all SDGs.” Malawi “To achieve Goal 12, we need diversified financials so that more entrepreneurs can start up initiatives of converting waste to resources. In Malawi we don’t have a proper waste management system (no recycling whatsoever) and we are losing out on the potential revenue from this industry.”

Mexico “Media is power and can make a big difference in equality in society.” Philippines “Sustainable cities and communities are primarily driven by people themselves. Investing in human capital and their potential to create their own incomes (such as social entrepreneurship) could help achieve SDG 11.” USA “Pharma and healthcare organisations can help reduce inequalities in cost, [increasing] access and quality of healthcare to marginalised populations.” Pakistan “Youth should play an important role in bringing positive change in the world.” India “If technology is the next oil, that’s the inequality we cannot afford as a generation.”


World Key insights from the global consultations

Stakeholders are in broad agreement that all can and would benefit from the WBA The consultations highlighted that the WBA would add value in two ways: as a true multistakeholder platform using benchmarks as a tool for dialogue; and as an institution aimed at

Whilst the global consultations confirmed

developing free, publicly available SDG-focussed corporate sustainability benchmarks. An

the belief that the SDGs cannot be achieved

inclusive, independent, international organisation could help all in understanding and assessing

without the private sector’s involvement,

private sector impact and contribution to the SDGs. Ultimately promoting greater alignment

ten further insights came into fruition in

in reaching for and achieving the Goals.

relation to the inclusive, global ambition of the WBA (World), critical benchmarking

Regions differ in how they view SDG priorities

aspects (Benchmarking), and the creation

While all participants agreed that business is key in delivering the SDGs, different regions

of a new, independent institution (Alliance).

highlighted different priorities in terms of SDGs and industries. This was reflected through

We’ll be sharing the additional inputs under-

roundtable discussions and online consultations alike. The role of government and of policy

pinning these insights over the coming

was also an important element to come through in the consultations due to the important

months through our online channels, in

interplay between policy context and corporate sustainability performance.

addition to the roundtable consultation reports already published. Of course,

The focus on impact is critical to the WBA’s success

dialogue with all stakeholders continues

Participants identified the WBA’s focus on impact as a ‘smart approach’ which brings major

as we move forward.

added-value. The notion of impact emerged in three important yet distinct aspects. One related to how a focus on impact includes but also goes beyond a focus on materiality. Another aspect related to the impact of the benchmarks themselves – in process, publication and integration in other work. Participants also discussed how to maximise the impact of the WBA as an institution and platform for dialogue.


Benchmarking Benchmarks can and are expected to play an increasing role in helping focus on corporate

view that collecting information is central in building awareness, promoting positive behaviour

alignment with the SDGs

change and measuring impact. Many also noted that the WBA’s focus on impact would likely

Stakeholders see benchmarks as an important tool to promote and assess corporate performance

mean existing information alone will be insufficient to properly evaluate the full SDG impact of

on the SDGs. Most see the WBA’s focus as a powerful way to help companies prioritise their

a company.

efforts in line with what society expects them to deliver. Two thirds of sustainability influencers surveyed expect ratings and benchmarks to play a more important role in driving corporate

Methodologies underlying WBA benchmarks have value beyond the benchmarks themselves

sustainability performance in the future.

Participants noted that the public and free nature of WBA benchmark methodologies would enable companies not included in WBA benchmarks to evaluate their own performance. It

Multiple WBA benchmarks will be needed to address stakeholder priorities

would also empower others in developing assessments and benchmarks by being able to apply

The WBA consultations highlighted that there are regional nuances but also commonalities in

the WBA methodology at for example a regional or local level. Participants also shared that

how people relate to and prioritise the SDGs and industries. Throughout the consultation phase,

the WBA could help play a role in putting citizens back at the centre of the SDGs – with WBA

stakeholders agreed that the WBA should develop both industry and SDG benchmarks rather

benchmarks and underlying data having the potential to empower the individual, for instance

than focusing on an industry or SDG approach. The phased development of multiple benchmarks

via technology solutions such as easy-to-use applications that can help to inform consumer

will help to address different stakeholder priorities and the nuances of corporate impact on

purchasing and investment decisions.

the SDGs. Reporting burden is a challenge to all, but it is possible to overcome The consultation phase confirmed stakeholders see a clear need for WBA benchmarks to build upon and add value to existing international standards, frameworks and initiatives that aim to advance corporate sustainability performance and transparency. The sustainability influencers survey highlighted that reporting burden is not perceived as the main barrier to the development of corporate sustainability benchmarks. Roundtable participants also broadly shared the


Alliance The WBA is a unique opportunity to embody SDG 17 as an institution and in action

The value of the WBA rests in the quality of its dialogue

Participants shared the view that the vision for the WBA reflected the collaborative ambition of

Throughout the global consultations, participants highlighted the importance and value of

SDG 17 (Partnership for the goals) and that its work and institutional design should reflect this.

being part of open, frank and collaborative discussions with a breadth of stakeholders on the

Governance was felt to be an essential part of reflecting this – actions matching words – and

role of business in delivering the SDGs. Multi-stakeholder input and dialogue was viewed as

that the Alliance should play a role at the heart of the WBA and within its governance structure.

essential, not just for the development of credible and robust benchmark methodologies, but in

SDG 17 was also flagged in relation to funding and support. Most participants agreed the scale

particular as the key added-value for the WBA as an institution.

and ambition of the WBA required support from public and private actors. This diversification would be essential to ensure long-term financial stability. It was noted, however, that this should be balanced with maintaining independence and transparency. The WBA should be inclusive and representative of stakeholders’ views For the WBA to be successful it needs to be inclusive of all stakeholders, giving each stakeholder equal weight in the conversation. Participants agreed it would be important for the WBA as an institution, the Alliance and WBA benchmarks to account for the variety and differences in stakeholders’ expectations and perspectives. Many participants recommended being very clear and upfront about any possible trade-offs that would necessarily come with trying to balance expectations of different stakeholder groups. Participants also noted and strongly supported the WBA’s ambition for greater regional outreach, dialogue and representation within the group of the WBA Allies - ‘the Alliance’.


“ Large sections of agricultural workers do not benefit from decent working standards.� Professionals survey


“ An ambition infinitely bigger than the realm of any single institution� Gerbrand Haverkamp Executive Director Index Initiative WBA Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


Each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and the 169 corresponding

We realise that only through the formation of a genuine Alliance can the

targets address the needs of people and the planet we share. Collectively

WBA be effective as a global institution, capable of developing and delivering

they are an ambition infinitely bigger than the realm of any single institution.

high quality benchmarks. We believe that our Allies bring credibility,

Yet we need all of us to put our voice and weight behind them. In order to

accountability and expertise: credibility in that the Alliance brings the best

succeed, the SDGs need institutions that are deeply committed to meeting

experts together; accountability as the breadth of stakeholders ensure

those needs and are aware that this can only be done if we work together.

the benchmarks address real societal needs; and lastly, expertise as Allies will be actively helping us build the benchmarks and the institution itself.

This may read like a platitude, but it is one we believe to be so real and essential – and yet so easy to forget in our everyday work – that we have to

Over the next year we can continue to shape the Alliance, deepen the ties

keep reminding ourselves.

between Allies and become more effective in delivering benchmarks and creating a bigger impact. We are, nevertheless, very aware that being an

This is especially true as we create the World Benchmarking Alliance. We

alliance of diverse groups will not serve everyone and everything at once.

can not only use the SDG Agenda as our North Star, we need to work in its

Despite the pressure to deliver, we must continue to listen, to be under-

spirit. This is what the Alliance is about. Generally, an alliance is understood

standing of one another and to accept compromises at times. In this way,

to be a union based on an affinity in interests and mutual benefit. We want

the Alliance can contribute to a world in which the success of business is

to create an alliance with more meaning than that – one that helps the WBA

measured by its contribution to society, delivering tangible impact.

“ In order to succeed, the SDGs need institutions that are deeply committed to meeting those needs and are aware that this can only be done if we work together.”

and its Allies to become better and more effective at helping deliver the SDGs.


Growing the Alliance: From an ambition to reality


The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) is building an inclusive, broad

As perspectives from all over the world were shared regarding the potential of the WBA, it

stakeholder alliance aligned with the universal nature of the SDGs. It is

was striking that a significant contribution that the WBA could make would be building a true

crucial that building the institution (the WBA) and bringing together allies of the WBA (the Alliance) creates value for all. SDG 17 (partnerships for

‘alliance’ to add value and impact. More than simply a group with common interests, the Alliance is a partnership that also brings accountability, credibility and expertise to the WBA and will be key in shaping its first priorities. Balance is fundamental to ensure that all

the goals) asks us all for leadership, and the WBA is taking an approach

stakeholder voices are represented, including academia, civil society, companies, consumers,

that enables the exploration for new ways of working and leading.

investors, financial institutions, governments and multilateral organisations. The Alliance has grown to over 70 organisations since the consultation launch in late September 2017 and is on the rise. Each new Ally brings fresh energy and new perspectives to the challenge ahead. Bringing people and perceptions together The interconnectedness of the SDGs calls for stakeholders to link their activities and institutions, but also to share their ideas, knowledge and innovations. In establishing the WBA and the Alliance, the aim is to represent all stakeholders and build on one another’s strengths, diversity and expertise. By virtue of its design as an organisation, collaborative approach and inclusive consultation, the WBA brings together diverse perspectives and diverging opinions which enrich the dialogue and the WBA’s output. The consultation phase brought a mix of stakeholders together, and the conversations highlighted that stakeholders saw two ways the WBA added value: as a true multi-stakeholder platform using benchmarks as tool for dialogue, as well as an institution that would develop SDG-focussed corporate performance benchmarks.


“ Diversity: the art of thinking independently together.” Malcolm Forbes

Embracing diversity

“ If you empower a woman, you are empowering a home.” Participants at the Nairobi Roundtable highlighted the value of grass-roots level thinking, linking the SDGs

While significant progress has been made in building the Alliance, size alone will not guarantee

and local business transformation to the cultural dynamics of the home and community,

the WBA’s success. Diversity has been celebrated as one of the Alliance’s key differentiators and has the potential to help accelerate collaborative action towards a more sustainable

in particular when addressing SDG 5 (gender equality). •

“ We need a critical mass of actors to make this work.” Participants at the Kuala Lumpur

future. After all – as we know – there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to the challenge of

Roundtable emphasised that while it will be easier for the WBA to engage with regional

achieving the SDGs.

partners, it will be essential to also work closely with organisations at grass-roots level, believing that many local NGOs, youth groups and communities still do not fully

Throughout the consultation phase, inclusiveness was unanimously considered fundamental

understand the SDG Agenda or how to connect it to their priorities.

and supported by all participants and WBA Allies. Comments underscored the requirement and value of diversity needed to champion new ways of working together and create a lasting impact. They also highlighted how extensively the SDG discussions have varied across regions.

“Ensuring diversity and inclusion within the WBA as an organisation, and the alliance that we are building, has to be a conscious effort and an integral part to how we

Some reflections from participant during the roundtable consultations were:

shape our mission. Being at the start of our journey, we have a great opportunity to

ensure that inclusivity is a core value embedded in how we work together and in

“ European mindsets don’t work in India.” Participants at the Mumbai roundtable stressed that India’s diverse business landscape – from conglomerates to multinational

partnership with others.”

enterprises (MNEs), and from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to the informal sector –results in not only vast business networks that are difficult to map, but also creates huge gaps within the local sustainability dialogues and practices. •

“ The WBA needs to know how businesses in different regions of the world work. Otherwise, it will become just another initiative.” Participants across the roundtables commented that in Europe the discussion around the role of the private sector in delivering the SDGs is one of the most advanced globally, while awareness of the SDGs is relatively low in other regions, such as South East Asia, where sustainability reporting is less developed.


Mwansa Phiri, Research Analyst Index Initiative

“ Lack of trust between companies, governments, civil society and people is the largest barrier to developing and achieving the level of sustainability required to meet the SDGs. In this region, this is a huge challenge.” Participant at the Buenos Aires roundtable

Following the consultation, the WBA has a greater understanding and awareness of regional

Building and strengthening trust will help secure a confidence in each other’s ability to act,

and cultural nuances surrounding business and the SDGs and is taking this into its work and

which will be essential as the Alliance moves forward. The WBA will – and must – continue

engagement to reflect such diverse regional priorities. The Alliance also continues to seek and

to listen, respect and respond. While recognising this as an aspiration for the WBA will

discover new ways of generating scale and impact through collaboration with diverse actors,

take stamina, it is only through the work with the Alliance and all stakeholders that this will

recognising that enhanced cultural understanding will be central to a successful institution.

ultimately succeed.

As the Alliance grows, building representation from the global south among WBA Allies and ensuring regional contexts are reflected in benchmark methodology development is a priority.

“While we are seeing companies adopt the SDGs and their respective targets, the lack

Continued outreach and consultation across regions and further partnership with local Allies

of a tool or platform which can measure the impacts of this commitment and performance

will also build balance. In this way, the WBA’s work and the Alliance will grow in a way that

is blocking wider private-sector engagement. Because of this, market and societal

truly reflects and embraces the diverse contexts and the spirit of the SDG 17.

expectations of the relationship between businesses and the SDGs remains unclear.

Building trust in order to act

I value the unique drive of the WBA to work globally and across stakeholder groups. Benchmarking corporate performance on the SDGs requires methodologies which are both relevant and adaptable to the context – across sectors, countries, size of company

To truly embrace and act in the spirit of SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) we must all –

or group, for example – as the status quo differs extensively from place to place. Latin

including the WBA and the Alliance – work to better understand, listen and build trust in one

and Central America is a clear example of this.”

another, in each other’s work and decisions taken together. Interview with

The consultation phase was explicitly designed to cultivate frank and honest conversations

Carlos Serano, Business and Development Lead for Latin America and the Caribbean, IFC – Financial Institutions Group, participant at Buenos Aires roundtable

among participants, many of whom would not often be in a room together otherwise. Bringing diverse perspectives and contexts to the discussion was fundamental to gathering participants’ views, feedback and encouraging constructive challenges to shape the WBA. This approach flows through the WBA’s work, relationships and partnerships, and is fundamental to delivering on its ambition.


Building a bridge of trust Gonnie Been Operations Director Index Initiative, WBA Secretariat WBA Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


The upcoming launch on 24th September 2018 in New York will transform

With the continuing endorsement of our Allies and supporters, we feel

the WBA from an idea into reality. We can feel the momentum building,

confident to go ahead. During our first Allies meeting in June of this year,

which creates a sort of satisfaction, but also a tension, as we can’t miss this

we were told to start moving – to put our words into action. Time is

opportunity to act.

marching, and the 2030 horizon feels closer each day. This means we will work together to build the bridge as we walk over it.

During the consultation phase, participants emphasised that we need to utilise what is already out there, learning from and building on existing

So, this blog is a pledge for trust. One that speaks so much louder in actions

initiatives to ensure the WBA will be something different, something new.

than just its words. Trust based on actions implies a way of working which

We have a tremendous opportunity to create something beautiful that not

we will establish within the movement as we continue to grow. Trust that we

only leverages the brilliant work being carried out by many already, but

promise to turn the idea of the WBA into a reality that will encompass all we

also bridges the gaps between all of us and what is required to achieve the

have heard and learnt over the past year. Trust that we will continue to learn

targets put forth by the SDGs. Amidst the chaos and intensity of the past

from one another. And lastly, trust that we will make mistakes or, at times,

year, we feel encouraged by the glimpses of potential power behind what

do things differently, which will look like we aren’t living up to our promises.

we can accomplish together.

This is what makes us human. If we do so, please forgive us and tell us

“ We have a tremendous opportunity to create something beautiful that not only leverages the brilliant work being carried out by many already, but also bridges the gaps between all of us and what is required to achieve the targets put forth by the SDGs.”

immediately, so that we can talk about it and move forward together. Our great ambition from the outset meant that we had to begin boldly, driven by the hope of uncovering answers to all those difficult questions

It is our belief that this level of openness is crucial to building an effective

facing us. Ultimately, we weren’t able to learn everything. Whilst our

culture of trust that flows through the WBA – trust that is necessary to build

intensive consultations – online and offline, structured and spontaneous –

a bridge whilst we walk over it.

have given us invaluable knowledge and insights, we recognise that there is still plenty to learn. And, trust that we will continue to do so.


“ The point is not to be neutral, but to be representative. If you have representation of all voices, all voices are heard.” Participant at the Nairobi roundtable

On this planet, we are all one team!

On the day of the Jakarta marathon, Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen, founder and president of

The togetherness in the endurance of the Jakarta marathon runners that day signalled

EAT Foundation, opened our roundtable consultation on the margins of the Asia-Pacific

that speed alone will not enable us to achieve the SDGs. When surrounded by others,

Food Forum. Her focus responded to the energies of the bustling megacity, which on that

it becomes impossible to ignore and more plausible to interact. Yes, corporate bench-

day would see thousands of runners navigating their way through its streets; encouraged

marking can help catalyse a race to the top, but the benchmarks’ presence can also

by the cheers of the city and the buzz of competition to “make them run faster, further

lay the foundations for more systemic change. The process of transparent tracking and

and be stronger than they ever thought possible.”

ranking procedures can impose credit for the front-runners and accountability for those trailing behind the pack. “On this planet, we are all one team. If everybody doesn’t

Her speech was all about the momentums of change and how our perceptions of

cross the finish line in time, nobody wins.”

sustainable action can reach as far as and challenge the systems in which they are born

out of. Recounting her own career, she traced how pace had once kept different sectors in distinct places. The sheer complexities of our globalising world continue to blend and blur the boundaries which once separated these systems. The SDGs raised the bar of potential for a total shift in mindset. Distinct knowledge and business practices were no longer fit enough to truly respond to the targets and to create any profound global change. She stated, “it has become widely accepted that system transformation requires coordinated efforts and collaboration across sectors and disciplines.”


Adapted from a blog on the WBA website, shared in February 2018 following the Jakarta roundtable.

“ We share the ambition of the WBA because we too sincerely believe that the private sector has a major role to play in driving change. The goal of the Access to Nutrition Foundation is to harness the power of the private sector to tackle the world’s most pressing nutrition challenges by working towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals 2 and 3. We therefore welcome and are proud to be a part of the WBA’s efforts to track and compare corporate sustainability performance on a global scale.” Inge Kauer, Executive Director, Access to Nutrition Index (ANTI)

“ As an asset manager with a long-term perspective and an active investment approach, Neuberger Berman seeks to understand the impacts of the companies in which we invest. In this spirit, we support the World Benchmarking Alliance’s mission of providing standardized reporting on how companies are contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“ We value the WBA because it is high time that consumers and markets have the data they need at their fingertips to literally buy into sustainability every day of the week.” Carolein de Bruin CEO and Founder, C-change

Jonathan Bailey, Head of ESG Investing, Neuberger Berman


“ We share the ambition of the WBA because together we can create a race to the top in sustainability performance – by unlocking the full potential of corporate reporting and disclosures.” Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)

“ We value the WBA because if we are to succeed in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, the private sector must actively contribute. Many in the private sector are contributing and want to contribute more. By providing solid metrics and holding corporate leaders accountable to those metrics, we can help create the incentives for all companies to help make this world a better place. The food and agricultural sector has a particularly important contribution to make to a number of important SDGs, including Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Life on Land, Climate Action, Gender Equality, and Clean Water. Likewise, failure to achieve these goals will negatively affect agriculture - so there is both the reward of creating a virtuous circle and reducing the risk of a possibly vicious circle by focusing on thefood and agricultural sector.” Ann Tutwiler, Director General, Bioversity International

“ Ceres warmly welcomes the launch of the WBA because companies must rapidly accelerate their sustainability target setting and performance to help achieve the SDGs. The WBA’s benchmarking of companies and global collaboration with civil society are critical steps for speeding up change.” Jim Coburn, Senior Manager, Ceres


Happy to be an Ally! Tim Mohin

Chief Executive, Global Reporting Initiative

Sustainability reporting can change the way a company does business. It also creates

The second is a multi-stakeholder approach to developing the ratings. Just like the WBA,

positive impacts for employees, customers and other stakeholders. I have seen this

I believe benchmarks – and the indexes that derive from them – are only as powerful as

first-hand. Although corporate sustainability reporting and sustainability performance

the diversity of the actors that use them. The third principle revolves around independence

have improved over the past 20 years, more still needs to be done to deliver change

from and impartiality with respect to commercial interests. This is essential for the

at the scale we need.

credibility of benchmarks and for building trust between different stakeholder groups.

The consultation around the WBA, launched in New York earlier this year, is an important

That’s what we need if we want to make a difference. And together we can.

development in that regard. The WBA has the potential to become an institution that would develop, fund, house and safeguard free, publicly available corporate sustainability benchmarks aligned with the SDGs. As such, it could play an important role in unleashing the full potential of the private sector to contribute to the SDGs. We support this non-profit oriented mission because of three principles we share with the WBA. The first is transparency of the rating process. To drive corporate change, it is essential that companies understand how and why their performance is measured, and that the methodology is robust. It is also critical that this information is available to all stakeholders, from investors, civil society and governments, to individual consumers.

Adapted from a blog post on the WBA website posted in late October 2017 as the consultation phase kicked off.


Nurturing culture and leadership within the Alliance


Achieving the SDGs requires leadership from all stakeholders, and the

The WBA embraces this ethos and will enable a culture within its organisation, partnership,

WBA has recognised that the traditional organisational hierarchy may not

and work with the Alliance and all stakeholders, looking to build new kinds of leadership that

be an appropriate model for its work. In a recent article, Patty McCord – a US thought leader and former culture guru at Netflix – emphasised that

promote effective collaboration and partnership for the SDGs. First and foremost, the internal team will be built in such a way that its own employees can further explore these values.

with large organisations and complex business landscapes, ever growing

The WBA is also working with Allies in shaping the Alliance itself to create a new model of

processes and rulebooks will only hinder prosperity.22 Instead, further value

partnering and collaboration. One that is not driven by rules and expectations, but that offers

is gained by letting high performers manage themselves in a flexible

a group of diverse, motivated individuals and organisations the opportunity to come together in a flexible learning environment.

environment. This way of viewing work life, though viewed as radical a decade ago, is being embraced more and more.

Following the consultation phase, WBA Allies and founding partners came together in late June for their first in-person meeting, held just outside of Amsterdam. Discussion centred on sharing initial findings from the consultation phase for feedback, as well as exploring the journey so far, the Alliance’s potential and key questions regarding the next steps for the Alliance. Part of the day was spent exploring several contrasting tensions that collaborative working practices can bring to light. The exercise was designed to consider challenges and learnings the Allies have experienced in their own work, initiatives and partnerships. We explored these as creative tensions, since these are dynamics that the WBA and the Alliance face. By listening and learning from them, we can shape the way forward together.


“ Current best practice that benchmarks corporate environmental and social performance against incremental advances is fatally flawed; the World Benchmarking Alliance is a vital new player resolving the shortfall by transparently benchmarking against the Sustainable Development Goals, which requires aligning with the scale, scope, and pace of necessary transformation. We at Reporting 3.0 are proud to be WBA Allies, sharing our expertise to integrate sustainability thresholds and allocations into WBA’s methodologies.” Ralph Thurm, Managing Director and Bill Baue, Senior Director, Reporting 3.0

“ The World Benchmarking Alliance is a key asset to convince powerful decision makers – from the public and private sector – that they could do more to advance nutrition as a driver of the Sustainable Development Goals.” Lawrence Haddad, Executive Director, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)

“ With our network of over 400 small and medium enterprises committed to scaling up nutrition across Africa, Asia and Latin America, The SUN Business Network is proud to partner with the World Benchmarking Alliance to set the framework for business action and investment to achieve SDG2.” Jonathan Tench, Senior Manager, SUN Business Network (Scaling Up Nutrition)


“ It is critical for allies to be able to articulate clearly why they are part of the Alliance and how they contribute to it.” Participant at the London roundtable

Holding a mirror up to the progress so far An interview with

Andres Roberts

co-founder of Way of Nature UK

Andres Robert is dedicated to new kinds of progress, combining renewed ideas about

need to combine two levels of conversation: a mix of practical workstreams and support

leadership and change, fit for a positive future for all. He guided and facilitated the Allies

structures focused on delivery, with wider threads of support to connect at a level of

Retreat, but his work did not start nor stop there. Using the technique of appreciative

purpose, design principles and collaborative working. At this stage, I think it’s important to

inquiry, a model that seeks to engage stakeholders in self-determined change, Andres

combine simple stepping stones to move things forward practically, while leaving room

conducted interviews with founding partners and Allies beforehand, as well as facilitated

to learn about more collaborative forms of working.

an internal team retreat. His continued collaboration has provided insight and analysis, which will prove vital as the WBA moves forward.

How does this work compare to other experiences in your field? The Alliance represents the kind of change many people are working towards, while, at the same time, not having a blueprint for how to do it. This task is bigger than any one

How have you been working with the WBA?

organisation is capable of doing alone and will involve letting go of lots of conventional

I’ve been helping the team to explore how the Alliance might grow as a whole. That is, how

forms of working. There seems to be little doubt that the Alliance is needed – which is

to work as an organisation with an impact greater than the sum of its parts. Practically, this

galvanizing people across sectors and backgrounds. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but

has involved interviewing different stakeholders to hold up a mirror of how things are going.

it’s a great way to start.

‘Holding up a mirror’ sounds interesting. What have you seen?

How have you, personally, found being part of the development of the WBA?

There are questions on how to connect, how to share information and how to bring

It’s been thrilling and exciting, and, if I am totally honest, it’s also been a bit overwhelming.

together different sectors and ideologies to complement each other. My sense is that we

It’s a very big project with so many perspectives and so much passion and need.


“ It was great to hear Allies say ‘we’ when talking about the Alliance.” Lisanne Urlings, Lead Research Index Initiative, WBA Co-founder

Speed & Thoroughness: The urgency of wanting to ‘get going’ and ride the momentum of engagement, while taking time to ensure quality and reputational legitimacy.

“Many say we are working in a VUCA world – more volatile, uncertain, complex, and

Simplicity & Complexity: The need to keep the mission simple, while addressing a highly

new ways and adapt in these complex environments. Wouldn’t it be amazing for the

complex challenge in need of complex systems and methodologies produce meaningful outcomes. Breadth & Depth: The tension between the vast span of data, people and possibilities, versus identifying narrower, but more certain, priorities and nurturing them. Partnership & Competitiveness: The need to learn to work as a connected system, while embracing the spark of a ‘race to the top’ that comes with robust, credible rankings. Staying human & Scale: Preserving compassion and staying grounded, while building a global institution with real-world impact. Structure & Openness: Establishing the WBA’s design that strengthens credibility, while providing space for actors to operate intuitively.


ambiguous. So, we need to explore new organisational forms that help us collaborate in WBA to be a practice ground for doing this?” Andres Roberts, Co-founder of Way of Nature UK

“ The SDGs challenge global companies to re-imagine how they could flourish in a sustainable future - operating within system boundaries and to the genuine benefit of all. The WBA can help shine a light on the true leaders and Future-Fit Foundation is excited to be part of this valuable initiative.” Martin Rich, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Future Fit Business

“ We value the WBA because of the opportunity it presents to drive higher-quality, more consistent, ESG information that can be used in an integrated report and be decision-useful for investors. Furthermore, we welcome the potential of this initiative to provide greater rationalization of asks to companies to provide data.” Richard Howitt, CEO, The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC)

“ Human rights and ecological prosperity lie at the heart of the Sustainable Development Goals, and a new vision for our world. The World Benchmarking Alliance will deliver robust and compelling evidence about the states and companies that are leading this challenge, alongside the laggards who need to transform their performance. With these insights, investors can back responsible companies, consumers can buy ethical goods, governments can apply smart regulation and incentives, and talent can choose to invest their working lives where it will contribute to a brighter future.” Phil Bloomer, Executive Director, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre



“ We are enthusiastic about the WBA’s initiative because The Geneva Association believes that well defined benchmarks can help insurers align their investmentdecisions with the SDGs.” Geneva Association

“ The GIIN recognizes that impact investing has the potential to make powerful and lasting contributions to the SDGs. This promise will be realized when impact data is transparent and universally understood across industries and sectors – and used alongside financial performance data. The World Benchmarking Alliance, in collaboration with global allies marks a critical step toward realizing this vision.” Global Impact Investing Network

“ We value the WBA because benchmarks can be key drivers for change and enable stakeholders to track corporate performance progress over time. This allows for a greater public voice and engagement in the actions of companies towards the SDGs. For Nordea Bank and our customers WBA facilitates the sustainable finance development and transition towards a sustainable future.” Nordea


Allies to the World Benchmarking Alliance

Business Network ENGAGE





“ It’s time to re-shape how money impacts tomorrow” Steve Waygood Chief Responsible Investment Officer, Aviva Investors WBA Co-founder and chair of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


Imagine a world where your money matters. A world where your money

in key industries will highlight the best and worst performers through bench-

could influence businesses and organisations in your local area and across

marking. The benchmarks will provide financial institutions, companies,

the world to act more sustainably. To put pressure on those who play an

governments, and civil society with information that can be used to challenge

important role in protecting our planet’s amazingly diverse communities and

businesses to do better. The WBA will enable investors to voice their support

environments. As Chief Responsible Investment Officer at Aviva Investors,

for leaders and challenge the laggards on their sustainability practices.

I believe we can challenge the rules of global finance by changing the course of money through our new, game-changing benchmarks.

Finance is a complex thing, and money moves around the world in complex ways. Corporate supply chains go above and beyond the company and start

The SDGs are a call to action for everyone to make the world a better place

with their financiers. To create full accountability on sustainability we need

and to secure the future of our planet. From individuals to multinational

to link the entire chain from the investors, through the company and down to

organisations, the responsibility falls on the shoulders of everyone. We know

the individual suppliers in the real economy - from producers to consumers,

the numbers: if stakeholders are mobilised around the world to challenge

factories to pockets, ground to mouth. Through connecting people and

how key economic systems are run, an estimated US$12 trillion can be opened.

information and creating benchmarks which enable anyone to see which

This is a tremendous opportunity for us to shift our minds away from the

organisations are performing and under-performing, sustainable finance can

immediate returns of today to sustainable impact for tomorrow.

become a reality. It’s about enhancing how individuals access and utilise

“ Through increased transparency, the league tables will enable anyone to track and compare the performances of the business services they rely on or utilise everyday – giving insight to investments and weight to the wallets of individuals.”

information and creating information which challenges. Imagine as you enter Sustainable Finance aims to connect financial performance with positive social

into a store, a notification flashes up on your phone – which tells you how

and environmental impact. It calls for us to rethink how money passes from

sustainable the products and services are in that store. This information can

person to person, business to business, place to place. It requires a long-term

not only help you buy more sustainably but is can also challenge you to

thinking through re-orienting the direction of investment towards more

re-think what you buy and the reasons behind buying it. It can equip you

sustainable technologies and businesses. By making finance central to the

with a purchase power through which to challenge companies to become

creation of carbon-free industries and climate resilient economies and by

more sustainable, otherwise they might risk losing you as a customer.

thinking more about how the decisions we make today impact the generations to come. It’s about recognising the value of finance beyond finance.

Benchmarks can empower decision making. By merging the performance of companies, businesses and institutions and giving consumers and investors

I believe the WBA can harness the power of the private sector towards

more power to sway the minds of those in place with most influence.

achieving this transformation of our mindset. Our ambition to rank businesses

Let’s make these ideas a reality. Let’s challenging the conventions of today

on their sustainability performance and contribution of leading companies

by re-shaping how money impacts tomorrow.


Leaving no company behind


The SDGs were agreed upon by world leaders from 193 governments, in

In a similar way that the benefits of development should be shared, so should the responsibilities.

partnership with citizens, companies, civil society and other stakeholders,

Many of the world’s leading companies are already embracing the challenge and aligning their

making this the largest global conversation of its kind. At the heart of the SDG Agenda is a pledge to ‘Leave No One Behind.’ This commitment

business models with the SDGs. However, it remains difficult to access reporting and compare how these companies are performing. This barrier diminishes the potential for companies to deliver on those goals most relevant to their industries and for stakeholders to hold companies

is to ensure that the benefits of development are shared equally across

to account. Both companies and stakeholders require information that is accessible, easy to

society and that the goals and targets should be met by all and for all.

understand and credible. This data will be key to celebrate the leading companies and offer

Most importantly, it endeavours to reach those who are furthest behind.

guidance to those that are falling behind. Benchmarks provide that essential tool for measuring and comparing corporate performance on the SDGs. They equip financial institutions, companies, governments, consumers and civil society with the information they need to exert their full influence and encourage others to do the same. By supporting the private sector in its role to deliver on the SDGs, the WBA can help companies move from aspiration to action to achievement. This global urgency for benchmarks is widely acknowledged, from the BSDC to the EU High-level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance. Findings from the WBA’s sustainability influencers survey also confirm this necessity, with one-third of respondents strongly agreeing that there is an unmet need for benchmarks linked to corporate performance on the SDGs and an additional 40 percent agreeing with this to some extent. Benchmarks only serve as powerful tools if they are considered robust and are employed by a large number of actors. Therefore, they must be developed in close collaboration with stakeholders, building upon the best scientific research, existing standards frameworks and other similar initiatives.


“ The benchmarks need to be clear, easy to understand, transparent, credible, trustworthy and accepted.” Professionals survey

Collectively, the SDGs set one of the most ambitious agendas the world has ever seen. The

Another key insight from the consultation phase was that the methodologies underlying the

private sector can play a key role in achieving the SDGs by developing new business models,

WBA’s benchmarks will have value beyond the benchmarks themselves. Stakeholders felt that

challenging current systems and collaborating with peers to maximise impacts. However, no

these benchmarks should enable companies that are not included in a benchmark to evaluate

single company or industry will be able to deliver the change that is needed to put the world

their own performance. The free and publicly available aspect of the WBA’s benchmarks and

on a more sustainable and inclusive path. Positive change must be a collective effort, and

methodologies will make this possible. By focusing on the companies and industries that can

disruptive innovation by entire sectors will be essential.

have the greatest impact, the WBA’s benchmarks can provide information and guidance to the most influential companies and industries on how to perform better. Also, by publishing the

The WBA’s benchmarks intend to target actors within specific industries which will be selected

benchmarks and methodologies as global public goods, the WBA can enable companies outside

based on their impact and potential contribution to the SDGs. These ‘keystone actors’ – a term

of the benchmarks’ scope to assess themselves,

coined by researchers from the Stockholm Resilience Centre – are those seen as crucial to

see what they are doing well and how they can

shifting norms and driving sustainable change within a given industry. They are often large

improve. SMEs, for example, would be able to learn

companies at the forefront of developments and investments within their sector, providing

from other companies’ best practices and use

a model for other firms to follow. Most of these keystone actors work with thousands of

the WBA’s benchmarks to guide their own approach.

business partners throughout their value chains. By setting sustainability standards, creating

This will ensure that corporate action on the SDGs

incentives and offering support, these keystone actors could leverage substantial impact to

can be taken by all, for all, and that no company

drive the transition towards more sustainable and inclusive systems.

will be left behind.

Many participants in the WBA’s consultation phase asked how these benchmarks can ensure that SMEs are also included and held accountable for their sustainability performance. In some cases, SMEs can be more influential than multinationals to address sustainability issues from a grassroots level. The ‘Leave No One Behind’ commitment can also, therefore, be applied to industries, companies, and their contributions to achieving the SDGs. See Key insights from the global consultations for a full list of key insights.


Engaging keystone actors to catalyse change By

Jessica Spijkers


Robert Blasiak

Stockholm Resilience Centre

The concept of keystone actors is inspired by the ‘keystone species’ term in ecology

sustainable practices is not only a necessity, but also makes good economic sense.

and is used to illustrate the idea that the largest companies in a given industry can operate

Through engagement with these keystone actors, it is thus simultaneously possible to both

similarly to keystone species in ecological communities, meaning that they can have a

raise the bar for global companies that have significant influence within their industries, as

disproportionate effect on the structure and function of the system in which they operate.23

well as provide incentives for their peers to follow this lead.

The following characteristics are common in keystone actors:

Companies have an important role to play in the transition to a more sustainable future.

a They dominate global production revenues and volumes within a particular sector;

However, there are challenges associated with engaging the private sector, especially


They control globally relevant segments of production;

when working with the largest industry actors. We need to continuously monitor the


They connect ecosystems globally through a network of subsidiaries;

process and understand the potential repercussions of a handful of influential companies


They influence global governance processes and institutions.

co-determining the industry’s sustainability agenda (e.g. avoid ‘greenwashing’ practices). Keystone actors certainly have a powerful potential to change their own practices and by

Engaging keystone actors to advance the SDGs is of obvious importance given these

extension push for changes within their respective sectors, but we need to place initiatives

actors’ global relevance, influence and impact within specific industries. If the largest

engaging with these actors in their larger context: as a complementary approach to

players in an industry can deliver on clear goals grounded in good science, this can send

existing processes, such as government regulations. However, providing a collaborative

an important signal to other companies operating within the same sector, regardless of

space for keystone actors to integrate relevant SDGs into their businesses while ensuring

their size, and provide an inspiration to other industries. Proactive and meaningful goal

the process and targets are scientifically valid, meaningful and credible is an important

setting by industry leaders demonstrates to other companies that transitioning towards

step towards creating systemic change.



“ It is quite easy to make a benchmark that is relevant for stakeholders, it is more challenging to make something that is relevant for companies.� Participant at the Cape Town roundtable


Channelling competitive spirits for positive impact An interview with Wim Leereveld, Founder of the Access to Medicine Foundation and Chair of the Supervisory Board, Index Initiative

that. They released a report entitled Beyond Philanthropy: The pharmaceutical industry, in corporate

social responsibility and the developing world. This report, a copy of which can still be found in Wim’s office today, described how the pharmaceutical industry had a key role to play in supporting health for all in the developing world. Wim realised that while companies had the power to drive change, NGOs and other stakeholders had the expertise on what change was needed. He began

Over a decade ago, when Wim Leereveld first had the idea to start the Access to Medicine Index,

to reach out to NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam, asking them what they conside-

he did not have an example benchmark to draw upon or a blueprint case study to show him how

red to be the biggest problems. They all told him that the prices of medicines were too high and

or why this idea could work. What he did have was a vision and an in-depth knowledge into

that the pharmaceutical industry could be doing more to improve people’s access to medicine.

the dynamics of the pharmaceutical industry, where he had spent over 15 years of his career.


“After some time,” Wim muses, “I knew these companies better than they knew themselves.” This

It was at this point Wim suggested something that had never been done before. Pharmaceutical

experience made him realise two key things. First of all, what pharmaceutical companies cared

companies should be compared to one another, to show which ones were performing the best and

the most about was other pharmaceutical companies. “These companies were very competitive,”

which ones were lagging behind on issues relevant to improving access to medicine. A benchmark

Wim states. “Every day they would discuss what they were going to do next based on what their

seemed to offer exactly that. By ranking companies and comparing them against each other, the

competitors did. They always wanted to beat their competitor. Yes, they were interested in what

competitive spirit that drove the industry would be channelled towards making a positive impact.

NGOs and governments thought about them, but what they most cared about was each other.”

Wim believed that “through asking all stakeholders what they think pharmaceutical companies

Secondly, pharmaceutical companies were more than willing to do more to make their products

should do to reach the people that are left behind, we can build consensus between all stakeholders

more accessible, but lacked the knowledge. As Wim reflects, “companies are very willing to do

– investors, NGOs, governments, and also companies – on what can be expected of the pharma-

more, but they simply don’t know how!”

ceutical industry.” There was, however, one big problem with Wim’s proposal: no one wanted it.

Like many of these companies, Wim was also looking to do more. Following his successful career in

“Companies felt it went too far, and NGOs felt it didn’t go far enough,” Wim said. His idea was both

the field, Wim had the ambition to develop a deeper personal and professional focus on corporate

radical and unpopular, two things which would place the first iteration of the Access to Medicine

social responsibility. In 2002, Oxfam, VSO and Save the Children gave him inspiration on how to do

Index under intense scrutiny from companies, civil society and investors alike. To ensure its

credibility and, therefore, impact, Wim took five years to go from idea to implementation–

Wim told Gerbrand that if he could get the idea funded, then Wim would help him set

working with a team of researchers, consulting with stakeholders, and engaging as many

it up. Gerbrand did, and the Access to Seeds Index was born.

companies as possible to develop the methodology and make sure it was right. According to Wim, “if you don’t do it thoroughly, the industry will not respect it.” The first Index was

The successes of these benchmarks pushed the envelope of what was possible. If the

finally realised in 2008, with the ranking featured as a front-page article in the Financial

pharmaceutical industry and the seeds industry could be benchmarked, why wouldn’t

Times (FT). This hyper visibility meant the criticism came in fast and from all sides. Wim

this work for other industries as well? The world faces a number of urgent and critical

recalled that “some companies were shocked at the results, and a major firm sent in an

challenges addressed by the SDGs where companies can have an impact, ranging from

angry letter to the FT as soon as the publication was released. NGOs were also disappointed

climate change to gender inequality to limited access to clean water. In thinking about

– how can any pharmaceutical company ‘be the best’ when they were all terrible?”

his experience and the potential impact of SDG-aligned benchmarks, Wim recounts

“ Bill Gates about the Access to Medicine Index:

“ We can expand the reportcard idea beyond the pharmaceutical industry and make sure the rankings get publicity, so companies get credit for doing good work. Consumers can reward companies that do their part by buying their products. Employees can ask how their employers are contributing. If more companies follow the lead of the most creative organizations in their industry, they will make a huge impact on some of the world’s worst problems.”

“when you work inside a company, your view might be narrow. You always think you are In addition to Andrew Jack, the reporter who wrote the story, there were two key

the best. They can’t go outside and look at themselves objectively. That is what we do,

people who saw the Index published in the FT and believed in its potential. The first was

no one else is doing that. Companies need help to discover how they can contribute to

Bill Gates, who gave an interview in Time Magazine the same year the ranking was

achieving the SDGs. Companies need to know where they are now and how they can

published where he described the Access to Medicine Index as a perfect example

improve. That is what a benchmark does.”

of ‘creative capitalism’ and a way to reward companies for the good they were doing. He suggested that the ‘report-card’ idea be expanded beyond the pharmaceutical

More than a decade later, with the Access to Medicine Index moving towards its 6th

industry. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation went on to become core funders of the

ranking, the initiative is now recognised as a major game changer. Wim notes that

Access to Medicine Index and later started the Access to Nutrition Index. The second key

benchmarks are no longer viewed with the same level of suspicion. He recalls attending

person to see the FT article who held a similar view was Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive

a meeting in Tokyo earlier this year for the Seafood Stewardship Index that is currently

Director of Index Initiative. At the time, Gerbrand was working at the Dutch Ministry of

in development. “When I started in 2008, we had to convince companies that an index

Agriculture. He was inspired by Wim’s story and wanted to try a similar initiative within

is something important that they should be involved in. In Tokyo, all the big seafood

the seeds industry, a small but crucial industry in the food system.

companies in Japan were there. They saw that an index could help them to do better.”

Time Magazine, 2008



The five reasons benchmarks work

With an ambition to benchmark companies against their contributions to the SDGs, the WBA has the privilege of wading in tested waters. The Access to Medicine Index was a pioneer in its approach to corporate benchmarking, soon to be followed by the Access to Nutrition Index, the Access to Seeds Index, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark and others. The WBA can draw upon these examples to display both how and why this idea works. They have shown that benchmarks work for five core reasons: First, benchmarks clarify what society expects from industries and companies. Second, they clarify where and how companies can contribute to sustainability. Third, they promote a race to the top. Fourth, they help track progress. Fifth, they are a proven and effective engagement tool.



Benchmarks clarify what societies expect from industries and companies Companies often deal with a wide range of stakeholders with diverging expectations and priorities. Through an extensive multi-stakeholder consultation process, benchmarks can identify common ground among key stakeholders and build consensus around these expectations. Benchmark methodologies can then translate these expectations into clear metrics, providing companies with a path forward. As one corporate participant in the New York consultation noted, “a benchmark would help us understand where the gaps are for us and what stakeholders want us to focus on.”

“Experts agree that promoting smallholder farmer productivity holds the key to achieving SDG 2 #ZeroHunger. The seed industry can contribute significantly to achieving this goal. But how to change the mindset of an industry that long has overlooked or ignored the needs and demands of small-scale farming? The Access to Seeds Index choose to take a regional perspective and included smaller, regional seed companies from Africa and Asia in its benchmarks that demonstrate that inclusive business models are possible that work both for seed companies as well as for smallholder farmers. By shining a light on this segment of the seed industry these regional companies not only set an example for their global peers, it also provided them a platform to demonstrate their strengths and track record to a global audience of donors, financer and other potential partners.”

Access to Seeds Index on how benchmarks clarify what societies expect from industries and companies


“ Create an awareness that it matters to consumers too. Once consumers start valuing this, companies will actually make an effort to ensure they comply.” Professionals survey


Benchmarks clarify where and how companies can contribute to sustainability The potential contribution of an industry to sustainable development is influenced by an industry’s core business and position in the value chain. This both determines and limits the influence of industries and companies. Benchmarks clarify the role of companies in achieving particular SDGs, but also highlight the responsibilities of other stakeholders. This in turn helps companies prioritise action, which maximises their contribution in a way that is efficient and effective. “You can spend hundreds of millions of dollars on CSR without having much of an impact,” noted one participant in the Nairobi consultation. Provided they are robust, credible, and provide a fair and scrutinised analysis, benchmarks are powerful tools to raise awareness on an issue and shape the debate around what industries can do about it.

“The overarching aim of the Access to Nutrition Index is to provide anyone who is concerned about addressing issues like obesity or undernutrition with an objective picture of what companies are doing. Both what they are doing well and where they can improve. With that, it is possible to identify where additional interventions may be needed. This may be by companies, or by identifying areas of further research for academics, or changes to government policy. Although, because there are so many different factors, it is difficult to attribute changes companies make to the Index itself the Access to Nutrition Foundation (ATNF) tracks impact through verifiable corporate actions and then measure behaviours as well. There is quite a bit of dialogue between ATNF and the companies, and this shows how the index is an effective engagement tool and not just about putting out results for companies to include in their annual report. ATNF engages with companies beyond just publishing the index. Companies are offered the opportunity to speak with experts on the ATNF team and receive input on how they can improve and why they think they scored the way they did. ATNF has produced three global indexes in 2013, 2016 and 2018. Looking at progress over that time whereas the average company score in 2016 was 2.5, in 2018 this jumped to 3.3.”

Access to Nutrition Index on how benchmarks clarify where and how companies can contribute to sustainability


“ Incentivise competition and a race to the top by continuing to raise awareness on the importance and relevance of the SDGs to stakeholders. Create narratives that help to link the SDGs to concrete actions and decisions taken by companies and investors.” Professionals survey


Benchmarks promote a race to the top

The league tables that are derived from benchmarks leverage the forces of competition to improve corporate performance; leaders are motivated to do more, while laggards are motivated to catch up. The cyclical nature of benchmarks provides companies with a strong incentive to improve and show progress over time. For top-performers, the results can be used as a source of competitive advantage while low rankings can act as a “wake-up call”. Used in the SDG context, this effect could give companies a powerful incentive to improve their sustainability performance and promote alignment with the 2030 Agenda, as well as help reduce the SDG investment gap.

“Our first benchmark acted as a catalyst in many areas: Consultancies have revealed that benchmarked company scores (and a need to improve) have been raised at the board level and driven improvement plans, while non-benchmarked companies like Mars Inc have brought in external support to assess them against the CHRB Methodology, establishing their performance against peers and identifying where to improve. Elsewhere, the methodology has been adapted: The Australian Centre for Corporate Responsibility publicly ranked 20 top Australian companies, since tied to successful shareholder resolutions aimed at improving human rights in the supply chain, while in Sweden the methodology was used to assess State Owned Enterprises and to push them to improve. The impact of a well-developed methodology can clearly help promote a race to the top; in and beyond the list of companies assessed.”

Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) on how benchmarks promote a race to the top



Benchmarks help track progress

The routine issuance of league tables helps to show progress both relative to peers and to societal expectations. As one participant at the Buenos Aires consultation pointed out, “the benchmark is not just a ranking; it’s also showing the gap.” This kind of exposure allows companies to learn from benchmarks and use them to progress. Participants in the Amsterdam consultation emphasised that benchmarks can bring important added value by informing and defining corporate strategy.

“Equileap was set up to accelerate progress towards gender equality in the workplace and to cut the 217 years the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take to achieve equality. Equileap scores public companies on their progress towards gender balance and equality. The aim of this is to drive increased gender equality in companies by fostering competition between them, enabling them to find out how well they are doing and where they can improve. We also provide investors with the tools they need to invest their funds with a gender lens. In this way Equileap seeks to harness the immense power of global capital to help bring about gender equality. Our data gives financial intermediaries the information they need to create new gender lens investing products, investing in companies that lead the way in this field. We can already see from Equileap’s work that public companies are gradually becoming more transparent about their efforts to achieve gender equality and that increasing numbers of them recognise that there is a strong business case to address gender equity. Regularly tracking progress is important to ensure this positive trend continues and companies are encouraged to step up their efforts to promote gender equality.”

Equileap on how benchmarks help to track progress

” 81

“ Make them simple, easy to understand and well advertised.” Professionals survey


Benchmarks promote dialogue and are a proven and effective engagement tool Benchmarks build on extensive multi-stakeholder dialogue. “The conversation about what constitutes a good contribution to the SDGs amongst key stakeholders is as important as the benchmark itself”, noted one of the respondents of the sustainability influencers survey. This sentiment was echoed during the New York consultation: “the real value lies in the dialogue that is created before, during and after the benchmark.” Providing all stakeholders with easy-to-use, reliable and comparable information empowers individuals and organisations to exert their full influence to improve corporate sustainability performance. Both investors and civil society frequently use benchmarks and league tables to engage companies and promote corporate change.

The Workforce Disclosure Initiative (WDI) was created in response to investor concerns about the lack of meaningful, comparable data on workforce management. By encouraging companies towards a more standardised approach to workforce reporting, our aim is for investors to be able to access the data they need to engage effectively with companies on how they manage their workforce. The WDI is coordinated by responsible investment charity ShareAction, and run in collaboration with Oxfam, SHARE, RIAA and other allies. ShareAction has been carrying out benchmarks for the past decade and we find them to be a valuable engagement tool. Whether for investors, companies or wider stakeholders, they’re effective for driving attention and progress on key issues. We’ve seen them work incredibly effectively, for example when progression within the benchmark has become integrated within team and individual performance indicators. They’re a great way to help set targets for improving practical performance. The WDI’s goal is to increase the public availability of workforce data in order to help drive improved conditions for workers, both in direct operations or supply chains. It is not yet a benchmark, but both companies and investors see the value in this becoming the case.

The Workforce Disclosure Initiative on how benchmarks are a proven and effective engagement tool


As 2030 quickly approaches, pressure is mounting to accurately measure the impact of companies in relation to the SDGs. A key insight from the WBA consultation phase is that benchmarks are expected to play an increasingly greater role in helping to deliver corporate alignment with the SDGs. Results from the online surveys suggest that benchmarking and other rating exercises are going to be increasingly important in the future, with around two-thirds of sustainability influencers expecting them to play a more important role over the next three years. Inputs from the consultation phase, combined with the WBA’s existing knowledge of benchmarks already in effect, have confirmed the five hypotheses surrounding the advantages of benchmarks when it comes to aligning corporate action with the SDGs.

“ [Benchmarks] would provide a consistent way for companies to compare themselves with peers and leaders in their sector. This will help to identify the most material issues and where companies can focus their efforts, either by filling gaps within their sector, e.g. issues to champion or understanding their own material issues and what to address.� Professionals survey



Centring benchmarks around the SDGs and industries

While the 2030 Agenda is universal, there are evident regional and national differences in companies’ needs, capabilities and challenges. Outcomes from the online surveys emphasise these nuances, given that priorities in terms of industries and SDGs differ across regions. The roundtable consultations also highlighted regional differences in how companies approach the SDGs. For example, participants at the Washington, DC consultation saw European companies as further along in integrating the SDGs into corporate strategy, while participants at the Mumbai consultation noted that corporate understanding of the SDGs was minimal in India, especially within smaller organisations.

See the SDG-Industry Intersections Map for critical links identified between industries and the SDGs.


Depending on the industry and the issue, there are two possible approaches to benchmarking: an industry-centred benchmark, focused on a sector’s impact on and contribution to the SDGs most relevant to their core business and supply chain, or an SDG-centred benchmark,

Both sector/SDG benchmarks at the same time


SDG benchmarks


Sector benchmarks


63% of academics say both vs 48% of corporates

focused on how companies in a select group of industries contribute to a specific goal. As participants during the consultation phase pointed out, different approaches will be required to cover the nuances of corporate impact on the SDGs. For instance, while some SDGs have direct business relevance for a large number of industries – for example, SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 8 (decent work) and SDG 13 (climate action), contributions from specific industries will be key to advance other SDGs, such as from the pharmaceutical industry on

Corporate respondents (36%) are more likely to recommend a sector approach

SDG 3 (good health and well-being) or the seafood industry on SDG 14 (life below water). The choice between an SDG-centred versus an industry-centred approach might also be


influenced by how well businesses within a particular industry are currently performing. Ultimately, what determines the approach is the impact the information can have on aligning

Learnings and recommendations from the consultation phase has led to three potential

corporate practice with the SDGs.

implications: First, the WBA should develop both SDG-centred benchmarks and industry-centred benchmarks. Second, the kind of approach – SDG-centred, industry-centred, or both – should

Both industry-centred and SDG-centred benchmarks are relevant for the WBA. This view

be determined through stakeholder consultations and research, as well as validation from

was reflected in the roundtable consultations and the online surveys, where a majority

an Expert Review Committee, representative of all stakeholder groups. Third, the approach

of sustainability influencers agreed that the WBA should develop both industry and SDG

should maximise the benchmark’s impact on improving corporate SDG performance.

benchmarks at the same time, rather than focusing on either an industry or SDG approach. This combined approach was also seen as a major contribution to the existing benchmarking

For each benchmark, the next consultation process will determine determine the most

ecosystem. As one participant in the Amsterdam consultation put it, “the WBA’s approach

appropriate methodology. The large majority of participants agreed it is important to ensure

is very smart because it enables a focus on impact.”

that experts from multiple stakeholder groups have a chance to provide feedback on the methodology design. “You need a committee to reflect what [the stakeholders’] angle is and how [the benchmark] should be constructed,” one participant said. The WBA’s suggestion of


creating an Expert Review Committee for each benchmark was considered a good way to address this consideration. To ensure maximum relevance, while reflecting and reinforcing current standards of practice, it is also important to consider and build on existing international principles and normative standards, as well as corporate reporting frameworks and sector-, product- and issue-specific initiatives.

Relevant elements that inform the methodology development





“ The benchmark shouldn’t be just an exercise for companies to complete and then move on.” Participant at the Washington DC roundtable

The WBA remains true to the SDG’s global ambition, but is also mindful of nuances in priorities and realities. The development of multiple benchmarks will help to address these different stakeholder priorities and will enable the WBA to explore issues with necessary depth and rigour to drive positive change.


Developing the methodology to build a benchmark


A benchmark methodology consists of objectives, scopes and a measurement framework.


Objectives Objectives outline the intended impact the benchmark aims to achieve.






measurement framework


Scopes determine the benchmark’s focus. This will always include: •

SDG scope: the SDGs on which the benchmark focuses

Industry scope: the industries included in the benchmark

Company scope: the companies included in the benchmark

For each benchmark, additional scopes may be relevant and required. Examples include a regional scope or country scope, as well as company activities or product scope.

How are the scopes determined?

What the benchmark aims to achieve

Measurement areas

SDG scope Themes

Industry scope

Company scope


The scope of each benchmark is determined through research to be either conducted or commissioned by the WBA and through multi-stakeholder dialogues. The proposed scopes are subject to stakeholder review, which includes bilateral interviews, expert meetings, and a minimum of one multi-stakeholder roundtable per benchmark. The proposed scopes are reviewed by the benchmark’s Expert Review Committee, consisting of experts who provide external advice on the structure, scope, methodology

Dialogue and research

and analysis for the benchmark.


Which companies can be in scope? A benchmark clarifies and assesses the areas where companies can make substantial contributions to advancing specific SDGs and corresponding targets. Companies that can

The benchmarking cycle – different steps in the benchmark development process

make such substantial contributions fall within the benchmark’s company scope, irrespective of whether or not they are listed. Benchmarks focus on companies that can reasonably be considered peers.

Methodology development

Measurement framework Benchmarks measure progress both relative to peers and to societal expectations. In addition to ranking companies relative to each other, benchmarks also assess whether the companies are

Dialogue and research

committed to sustainability, whether they are transparent about their policies and practices,

Methodology development and review

and whether their performance matches existing commitments and societal expectations around what the industry should contribute to the SDGs. Companies that choose not to participate actively in the data collection phase will be scored based on publicly available information.

Benchmark publication

Methodology publication

Measurement areas Corporate behaviour is measured across different areas that are deemed relevant for improving outcomes on those SDGs included in the scope of the benchmark. The importance of each measurement area is reflected in the weight allocated to each of these areas in the benchmark.

Verification and analysis

Data collection

Indicators Within each measurement area, companies are assessed against different indicators. Indicators can fall into different categories, such as commitments, transparency or performance. Scoring guidelines outline the different scores that companies can obtain and their associated criteria.


Benchmark development

Expert Review Committees

4 Informing benchmark improvements: stakeholder dialogues are an essential part of evaluating

Expert Review Committees (ERCs) are a key component of the WBA’s benchmarking process.

and discussing the results of a particular benchmarking cycle. Based on the feedback received

ERCs play an essential role in providing the WBA Secretariat with strategic guidance, recommen-

during these dialogues, a first proposal for the revision of the benchmark is developed by

dations and advice on the scope, structure, content and methodology of WBA’s benchmarks.

the WBA Secretariat. The ERC then reviews it and provides feedback on those updates. Based

Each benchmark’s ERC is structured so that the collective expertise of its members covers

on this feedback, a new draft methodology for the next benchmark cycle is developed.

all relevant areas within the scope of the benchmark being explored. These typically include representatives from investors, governments, academia, multilateral organisations, financial institutions, business associations, consumer organisations and civil society. The ERC plays a decisive role in key moments of the benchmark cycle (see The benchmarking cycle). 1 Developing the methodology: the development of a benchmark’s methodology typically starts with the WBA Secretariat either developing or commissioning a methodology outline, using findings from extensive stakeholder dialogue and desk research. This outline, which includes an initial draft of the scope and key measurement areas, is then reviewed and discussed with the ERC. Based on the ERC guidance, the WBA Secretariat then will develop or commission the first draft of the benchmark methodology. 2 Validating the methodology: the ERC reviews the draft version of the benchmark methodology produced by the WBA Secretariat. Based on the ERC’s feedback, this draft methodology is finalised and opened for public consultation, after which it is updated, reviewed again by the ERC and published. 3 Validating the benchmark report: the ERC is consulted prior to publication of the report to review and provide input on the benchmark’s key findings, lessons learned and the report’s recommendations. 91

“ Transformative change requires transformative approaches to problem-solving� Kaysie Brown UN Foundation Special Advisor & Head of Policy Planning WBA Co-founder and member of the Steering Committee for the WBA Consultation


With the adoption of the SDGs, we have seen a sea-change in the way the

the SDGs, and an increased focus on implementing public-private partnerships

world thinks about and approaches its work in global development.

in-country, the UN is demonstrating every day that business is a key partner in meeting our deadline for the SDGs.

The SDGs are as bold as they are ambitious, with early estimates suggesting that investments of between US$5-7 trillion a year will be needed to make

The UN Foundation is similarly taking action. For 20 years, we have worked

the progress that is required. And while these resources will partly come from

to connect people, ideas, and resources to the UN. Our work is guided by a

new approaches to official development assistance (ODA) from capitals

belief in the power of partnerships and an understanding that transformative

around the world, the private sector is also a critical actor in helping to achieve

change requires transformative approaches to problem-solving. The WBA

the Goals. We are already seeing business leaders embrace sustainability in

is a critical tool needed for changing the way we work with business, measure

real, transformational ways like never before – in part because the economic

impact on the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind on the road to 2030.

arguments for these investments are compelling and in part because societal

This is a big idea that will require high ambition and new ways of collaborating

expectations about the role of business are shifting.

for collective impact to see the results we’re aiming for.

“ The WBA is a critical tool needed for changing the way we work with business, measure impact on the SDGs and ensure that no one is left behind on the road to 2030.”

The UN, too, firmly believes that the private sector must have a place at the table. With over 9,000 companies signed up to the 10 Principles of the UN Global Compact, efforts by the Secretary-General and other UN leaders to convene stakeholders around the importance of mobilising private capital for


SDG-industry intersections map

SDG Energy Materials

Identifying critical intersections between industries and SDGs: The SDG-industry intersections map

Capital goods Commercial & professional services Transportation Automobiles & components

While every industry can be linked to each of the 17 SDGs, this map focuses on where a given industry can have the greatest impact,

Consumer durables & apparel Consumer services

both positive and negative. The industries


are based on an adapted list of the Global



Industry Classification Standard (GICS). We analysed which industries can make the most substantial contributions to achieving each of the SDGs and their corresponding targets. Throughout the consultation phase we also explored, both online and in person, where people believe the critical links are between industries and SDGs. The outcomes of this are summarised in the SDG – industry

intersections map and are supported by quotes from the online and roundtable consultations.

Food & staples retailing Food, beverage & tobacco Household & personal products Health care equipment & services Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology & life sciences Banks Diversified financials Insurance Information & communication technology Telecommunication services Utilities Real estate



















SDG 1: No poverty Food, beverage & tobacco “Most of the extreme poor work in agriculture.” Professionals survey ICT “Access to information is still a huge issue for the world’s poorest people, and if they lack information, even when resources may be available, they will not be aware of it.” Professionals survey

SDG 2: Zero hunger Food and staples retailing + Food, beverage & tobacco “These industries have the most influence on how farmers farm.” Professionals survey

SDG 3: Good health and well-being Health care equipment & services “Healthcare – availability, access, and affordability – has the greatest impact.” Professionals survey

Telecommunications “The ubiquity of information technology and the open data movement is giving people improved access to health care through their mobile phones.” Professionals survey

SDG 4: Quality education Media “Media is a great platform that can improve education because media encompasses the radio, television, graphics and magazines, online platforms etc. If all these platforms decide to dedicate a bit of their section to teach something educational, and package the program well, children and students will learn anytime they go on to the media.” Professionals survey

ICT “ICT helps to create access to quality education in difficult-to-reach areas, to a lot more people than 1 on 1, at a cheaper cost, and without requiring a massive amount of infrastructure. Quality is also easier to achieve because users can access global materials or materials developed to


global standards, without being limited to the (often poor) working knowledge of teachers.” Professionals survey

Telecommunications “Countries have been able to leapfrog and accelerate development due to new technologies such as mobile telecommunications and mobile money services.”

SDG 5: Gender equality Media “Media could better disseminate equality through how they mirror, reflect, and shape society.” Professionals survey

Kuala Lumpur consultation

Health care equipment & services “Maternal healthcare and reproductive rights are extremely important for empowering women and giving them the best chance at life.” Professionals survey

SDG 6: Clean water and sanitation Utilities “Water utilities need a more holistic approach to their management so that everyone gets the water they need, at prices they can afford.” Professionals survey SDG 7: Affordable and clean energy Transportation “Transportation is an important source of energy consumption and pollution. A transport revolution will help to promote this goal.” Professionals survey Utilities “Renewables are required to reduce global carbon emissions and power a low-carbon economy.” Professionals survey SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth Food, beverage & tobacco “Large sections of agricultural workers do not benefit from decent working standards.” Professionals survey

Banks “The number of underbanked who are poor and/or women is appalling. From an economic standpoint, that is over $40 billion on the table that can be used to improve people’s lives.” Professionals survey SDG 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure ICT “New technologies allow all industries to innovate.” Professionals survey

SDG 10: Reduced inequalities ICT “ICTs are prominent in improving access to knowledge, skills, and communication etc, which can empower individuals and reduce inequality.” Professionals survey Insurance “The insurance sector can make important contributions to improving equality as a lot of people at the bottom of the pyramid are uninsured. As many of the poor are employed in the informal sector, they lack access to affordable insurance and without insurance, high outof-pocket healthcare expenses can be an important cause of impoverishment for families.” Mumbai consultation

Household & personal products “The high demand and turnover of these items has created a huge and largely unnoticed impact.” Professionals survey Banks + Diversified financials “The financial system is the heart that pumps ‘blood’ into either responsible (future proof) or irresponsible (destructive/dysfunctional) production and consumption.” Professionals survey SDG 13: Climate action Energy “The energy sector is one the largest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions and there is great potential to ‘decarbonise’.” Professionals survey Utilities “Energy is the basis for our societies and economies. The change to renewable energy production is essential for reducing our carbon emissions.” Professionals survey

SDG 11: Sustainable cities and communities Real estate “Real estate plays an important role in providing safe and affordable shelter.” Mumbai consultation

Banks + Diversified financials “Lending and investment practices should move away from fossil fuels to renewables.”

Materials “Most of today’s construction materials is reinforced concrete which is difficult to dispose of after the demolition of buildings. This makes the development of new construction materials necessary.” Professionals survey

SDG 15: Life on land Food, beverage & tobacco “Agriculture is a key driver of habitat and biodiversity loss.” Professionals survey

SDG 12: Responsible consumption and production Consumer durables & apparel “Apparel has a complex supply chain, significant water and carbon footprint, major human rights and labour risks and involves highly polluting processes. It is the second largest industrial polluter after the petrochemical industry.” Professionals survey

Professionals survey

SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions ICT “ICT has an impact on people’s information and decision making, democracy and the rule of law.” Professionals survey

Media “Media is a central tool in promoting peace and fighting corruption.” Mumbai consultation

Consumer durables & apparel “Consumer durables make up a lot of what we use and consume. They can be made in a more circular fashion – with fewer plastics, more reusability and less programmed obsolescence.” Professionals survey

The GICS Industry Groups Software & Services, Technology Hardware & Equipment, and Semiconductors & Semiconductor Equipment were merged into Information & Communication Technology



Prioritising SDGs and industries for a better world

As part of its consultation phase, the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) held a series of three online surveys intended for different audiences: the general public, professionals, and key opinion leaders and influencers in the sustainability field. The results from these surveys provide insights into what people across the world believe needs to happen to make the world a better place in 2030, including which SDGs and industries are most influential to accelerate positive change.

For more information about the different surveys, see ‘Gathering views on SDGs, industries and corporate SDG benchmarks’.


Sample profile of the general public survey respondents Demographics

General public survey The general public survey entitled ‘How would you change the world?’ asked three questions. The first question inquired about the respondent’s number one priority to make the world a better place in 2030: a sustainable economy, a sustainable society, or a sustainable environment. Based on their answer to the first question, respondents were then asked which issue they would solve first, with each issue being linked directly to an SDG (i.e. end poverty: SDG 1).


Subsequently, respondents selected one industry they believed would have the

63% female

31% male

6% unspecified

greatest impact on solving their perceived greatest challenge and, therefore, achieving its corresponding SDG. The general public survey engaged 9,865 people from 145 countries, with over half (53 percent) of its respondents from China. After China, the largest number of survey respondents came from Europe (15 percent), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (11 percent). Nearly two-thirds of respondents were female (63 percent), and over two-thirds were under the age of 25 (68 percent).

Age 2% < 14


66% 15 - 24

16% 25 - 34

6% 35 - 44

4% 45 - 54

2% 55 - 64

1% > 65

3% unspecified


15% Europe

2% Oceania 3% Sub-Saharan Africa 11% Latin America & the Caribbean

7% Middle East & North Africa 4% North America 53% Asia

“ Renewables are required to reduce global carbon emissions and power a low-carbon economy.� Professionals survey

5% unspecified

99 99

Sample profile of the professionals survey respondents Stakeholder information

Sector of employment

Professionals survey The professionals survey entitled ‘Benchmarks for change’ asked professionals across sectors and fields to share their insights on sustainability more broadly, the SDGs and corporate sustainability benchmarking. Similar to the general public survey, respondents identified which SDG they perceived to be the most important to help create a better world in 2030, as well as selected two industries or sectors they believed would have the most significant impact on achieving their priority

7% public sector

7% private sector (investor)

11% not for profit

15% academia

15% consultancy

22% private sector (company)

23% other

33% Europe

4% Latin America & the Caribbean

3% Middle East & North Africa

13% North America

4% Oceania

8% Sub-Saharan Africa

SDG and explained why in an open field. Their responses provided strong insights on both the value and credibility of SDG benchmarks. The professionals survey received 361 responses from people across various sectors


of employment. The largest number of respondents came from Asia (35 percent), followed by Europe (33 percent). There was a notable difference in respondents’ job level, ranging from entry-level to president or CEO of the organisation.

35% Asia



Job level

4% president or CEO

13% director

2% c-level executive 2% senior president 2% vice president

10% senior manager

12% manager

10% analyst/ associate

9% entry level

6% owner

30% other/ unspecified

“ GHG emissions from energy and transport constitute the largest source of emissions. If we don’t bend the curve towards the 1.5 - 2 degrees trajectory agreed in Paris, none of the other SDGs can be achieved in a meaningful way.” Professionals survey

101 101

Sample profile of the sustainability influencers survey respondents Stakeholder information

Stakeholder types

Sustainability influencers survey The WBA collaborated with GlobeScan for the third online consultation, conducting a survey for key opinion leaders and influencers in the sustainability field. The survey was held among a panel of highly experienced professionals with expertise in topics relating to sustainability. These experts are considered sustainability influencers. The survey aimed to gather these influencers’ insights on current attitudes towards new SDG-oriented benchmarks and to hear experts’ views on

28% service/ media

26% corporate/ for-profit

20% academic/ research

15% NGO

11% other

the approach and methodology in developing the benchmarks. Finally, similar to the other online surveys, respondents were asked to prioritise an SDG and select two industries or sectors that they believed to have the most significant impact on achieving that particular SDG.


The sustainability influencers survey engaged 445 respondents from a variety of sectors. The largest number of respondents came from Europe (44 percent), followed by the USA & Canada (26 percent). While there was some variation in job level, a large share of respondents sat in their organisation’s C-Suite or equivalent (23 percent) or held senior director positions (23 percent).

44% Europe


26% USA/ Canada

10% LATAM/ Caribbean

9% Asia

7% Africa

5% Oceania


Job level

23% c-suite or equivalent

6% individual contributor

23% senior director

16% manager or below

8% SVP, VP

7% board member

18% other/prefer not to say

Experience in CSR

75% 10+ years

16% 5 - 10 years

6% 3 - 4 years

1% 1 - 2 years

2% no experience


Insight 1

What do you feel is the number one priority to make the world a better place in 2030?

The general public believes that a sustainable environment is the top priority for making the world a better place in 2030 When the general public survey asked “What do you feel is the number one priority to make the world a better place in 2030?”, exactly half of the respondents chose “a sustainable environment” (see Figure 1). Nearly one-third of respondents (32 percent) selected “a sustainable society”, and nearly one-fifth (18 percent) said that “a sustainable economy” would make the world a better place in 2030. This order of priorities holds constant across all age groups and genders, though there are some differences between regions. Regionally, respondents from Asia, Europe, North America and Sub-Saharan Africa were most likely to choose “a sustainable environment” as their top priority. However, respondents from Latin America & the Caribbean, the Middle East & North Africa and Oceania were more likely to view “a sustainable society” as imperative to making the world a better place. In any case, across all genders, ages and regions, respondents were least likely to

50% A Sustainable Environment

32% A Sustainable Society

believe that “a sustainable economy” was a top priority to make the world a better place in 2030.



18% A Sustainable Economy

Insight 2

SDG 1 and SDG 13 are considered the most important goals to help create a better world in 2030

If you had the opportunity to change the world for the better, which issue would you solve first?

Combat climate change: SDG 13


Access to affordable and clean energy: SDG 7


End poverty: SDG 1


Clean water and sanitation: SDG 6


When asked which challenge they would tackle first to change the world for

Quality education: SDG 4


the better, respondents from the general public survey were most likely to

Protect life on land: SDG 15


Peace, justice and strong institutions: SDG 16


Reduce inequality within and among countries: SDG 10


Protect life below water: SDG 14


Respondents across all three surveys agreed that SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 13 (climate action) are critical to making the world a better place in 2030.

choose climate change, addressed by SDG 13, followed by access to affordable and clean energy – SDG 7, and ending poverty – SDG 1 (see Figure 2).II Likewise, when asked which SDG is the most important to help create a better world in 2030, respondents from both the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey prioritised SDG 1 as the most influential, followed by SDG 13 and SDG 4 (quality education) (see Figures 3 and 4). Respondents from the general public survey were least likely to prioritise the

Healthy lives and well-being: SDG 3


Industry, innovation and infrastructure: SDG 9


Decent work and sustainable economic growth: SDG 8


challenges posed by making cities and communities sustainable, addressed

Sustainable consumption and production: SDG 12


by SDG 11, ending hunger – SDG 2, or gender equality – SDG 5 (see Figure 2).

Make cities and communities sustainable: SDG 11


End hunger: SDG 2


Gender equality: SDG 5


In both the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey, respondents were least likely to consider SDG 14 (life below water) and SDG 15 (life on land) as influential goals to help create a better world in 2030.



DG 17 (partnerships for the goals) emphasises the importance of partnership and cooperation to achieve S the SDGs. As this is important across all sectors, this SDG was not included in the surveys.


What is the most important Sustainable Development Goal to help create a better world in 2030?

No poverty SDG 1 Climate action SDG 13


Quality education SDG 4


Good health and well-being SDG 3


Peace, justice and strong institutions SDG 16


Clean water and sanitation SDG 6


Affordable and clean energy SDG 7


Reduced inequality SDG 10


Responsible consumption and production SDG 12


Zero hunger SDG 2


Sustainable cities and communities SDG 11


Decent work and economic growth SDG 8


Gender equality SDG 5


Industry, innovation and infrastructure SDG 9


Life on land SDG 15


Life below water SDG 14





In your opinion, what is the most important Sustainable Development Goal to help create a better world in 2030?

No poverty SDG 1 Climate action SDG 13

“ Energy is the basis for our societies and economies. The change to renewable energy production is essential for reducing our carbon emissions.” Professionals survey

17% 15%

Quality education SDG 4


Reduced inequality SDG 10


Responsible consumption and production SDG 12


Peace, justice and strong institutions SDG 16


Clean water and sanitation SDG 6


Zero hunger SDG 2


Good health and well-being SDG 3


Affordable and clean energy SDG 7


Sustainable cities and communities SDG 11


Decent work and economic growth SDG 8


Gender equality SDG 5


Industry, innovation and infrastructure SDG 9


Life on land SDG 15


Life below water SDG 14




The three surveys also revealed regional differences among respondents’ rankings of which issues and corresponding SDGs need to be addressed to create a better world in 2030 (see Figure 5). Europe In the general public survey, respondents from Europe, North America and Sub-

North America


Saharan Africa would focus primarily on

Middle East & North Africa

climate change, addressed by SDG 13, while those from Latin America & the Caribbean and Oceania would first tackle poverty – SDG 1. Respondents from the Middle East & North Africa said that the

Latin America & the Caribbean

Sub-Saharan Africa

world principally needed quality education


– SDG 4, while respondents from Asia would mainly prefer access to affordable and clean energy – SDG 7.



In the professionals survey, respondents from Europe, Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa believed that achieving SDG 1 (no poverty) would be most helpful to create a better world, while those from North America and Latin America


& the Caribbean prioritised SDG 13

North America


(climate action). Respondents from the Middle East & North Africa gave three

Middle East & North Africa

goals equal importance: SDG 1, SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and

Latin America & the Caribbean

SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). Respondents from Oceania placed

Sub-Saharan Africa

both SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) and Oceania

SDG 13 as a top priority.



Although respondents from the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey share many similarities among their top priority SDGs, some differences can be observed. For example, in the sustainability influencers survey, respondents from Latin America & the

USA & Canada

Europe Asia

Caribbean said that SDG 4 (quality education) was the most important goal to create a better world. However, respondents from the same region in the

Africa & Middle East

professionals survey prioritised SDG 13 (climate action). When comparing the second most prioritised SDG by region,

Latin America & the Caribbean

responses from these two surveys diverge


even further.



“ Access to information through technology has huge potential for learning, skills development, growth and employment.� Professionals survey


Insight 3

ICT and energy are regarded as key industries for advancing the SDGs

In the general public survey, respondents most frequently selected industry, energy, information technology, food beverages and household products, and finance industries as

Across all three surveys, respondents were most likely to consider both the information and

most influential (see Figure 8).III Respondents from the professionals survey were most likely

communication technology (ICT) industry and the energy industry – including renewable energy –

to choose the ICT, banks, renewable energy, healthcare, and food, beverage and tobacco

as highly influential for achieving the SDGs worldwide. Overall, ICT was seen as the most impactful

industries (see Figure 9), which aligns with the top five industries that respondents from the

industry across several SDGs, appearing as one of the top three industries for 12 out of the listed

sustainability influencers survey identified as key for advancing the SDGs (see Figure 10),

16 SDGs in the general public survey and nine out of the listed 16 SDGs in the professionals survey.

though the orders vary.

% of total mentions across SDGs, all respondents Industry Energy Information Technology Food, beverages and household products Finance

0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 14% 16% 18% 20% FIGURE 8: TOP FIVE PRIORITY INDUSTRIES, GENERAL PUBLIC SURVEY



I n the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey, the list of industries that respondents could choose from was expanded from 11 to 27 industries to allow for a more granular analysis.

% of total mentions across all SDGs Information and communication technology

For more information on how


the outcomes of the online

Renewable energy

consultation inspire benchmark development, see ‘Centring


benchmarks around the SDGs

Food, beverages and tobacco

and industries’. 0% 2% 4% 6% 8% 10% 12% 14% 16% 18% 20% FIGURE 9: TOP FIVE PRIORITY INDUSTRIES, PROFESSIONALS SURVEY

% of total mentions across all SDGs Information and communication technology Renewable energy Food, beverages and tobacco Banks Healthcare



Exploring the connection between SDGs and industries for a better world


The three online surveys reveal several links between respondents’ highly

Some of the connections come as no surprise, such as the recurring one found between

prioritised issues and corresponding SDGs to make the world a better

SDG 13 (climate action) and the (renewable) energy industry. Energy-related CO2 emissions

place in 2030 and the industries they considered to be influential drivers in advancing those goals. By cross-referencing the top three SDGs with the industries considered most important for advancing that SDG, each survey provides a better understanding of how respondents connected the goals to business. (see Figure 11).IV

are the largest source of global anthropogenic GHG emissions.24 To combat climate change and meet the goals set out by the Paris Agreement, energy-related CO2 emissions must be reduced by more than 70 percent by 2050, when compared to their 2015 levels. This can only be achieved by deploying significantly increased amounts of renewable energy.25 The surveys’ results also reflect the emerging importance of digitalisation. Respondents from both the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey, for example viewed ICT as the industry that can have the most profound impact on achieving SDG 4 (quality education). By facilitating universal access to education, enhancing the quality and relevance of learning, bridging learning divides and strengthening educational systems,26 ICT can make important contributions to many of the targets that fall under SDG 4. Although respondents from both the professionals survey and the sustainability influencers survey ranked SDG 1 (no poverty) as a top priority, different studies carried out by the UN Global Compact, WBCSD, KPMG and PwC found that this SDG is often one of companies’ least prioritised and reported on goals.27 28 29 30 This does not, however, mean that business cannot play a key role in advancing SDG 1 – on the contrary. By creating and providing good and inclusive jobs, elements mostly captured under SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth), companies can have a direct impact on lifting many out of poverty.


I n the general public survey, respondents were only allowed to select one industry per SDG. However, in the professionals survey, respondents were able to identify two industries per SDG.


General public survey

Professionals survey

Sustainability influencers survey






Fossil fuels


Renewable energy




Renewable energy


Fossil fuels


Food, beverage and household products


Electric utillities


Electric utillities






Food, beverage and tobacco


Food, beverage and household products


Information and communication technology 11%



Real estate


Food, beverage and tobacco





Information technology



Information and communication technology 12%

Information and communication technology 41%

Information and communication technology 44%











A series of heatmaps shown on the next pages reveals further insights into how respondents

Respondents from the Middle East & North Africa were most likely to connect the ICT industry

from both the general public survey and the professionals survey linked high priority SDGs with

to advancing SDG 4 (quality education). Despite the region’s important progress toward

potentially influential industries, at the global and regional levels. For each heatmap, the darker

increasing children’s school enrolment, attendance and completion, their access to education

the color, the higher the number of respondents who linked that industry to their chosen SDG.

remains unequal, and quality also poses a challenge.34 ICT can be used to further extend children’s access to education, support teacher’s professional development, and promote

At a global level, respondents were most likely to associate industrial production with having

both the quality of teaching and relevance of learning.35

a strong impact on achieving SDG 13 (climate action), followed by the energy industry. This connection was closely followed by the energy industry’s recognised influence on advancing

In Sub-Saharan Africa, respondents often considered the financial industry as a strong catalyst

SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy). Climate change is a threat to sustainable development

for reducing poverty, thus advancing SDG 1 (no poverty). Financial services can help people

and this urgency is reflected by the high number respondents of both the general public

escape poverty by facilitating investments in education, health and business and by enabling

survey and the professionals survey that prioritised this SDG.

them to manage financial emergencies.36 Although financial inclusion has improved significantly across Sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the increasing uptake of financial technology –

Respondents from Latin America & the Caribbean were highly likely to consider poverty as a

21 percent of adults now have a mobile money account, account ownership (either at a

significant barrier to making the world a better place, and they often linked the real estate

financial institution or through a mobile money provider) is still considerably low compared

industry to SDG 1 (no poverty). Latin America & the Caribbean is the most urbanised developing

to other regions in the world.37

region in the world, with 81 percent of its population living in urban areas. However, over one 31

fifth of this urban population resides in slums.32 Formal housing in Latin America & the Caribbean is relatively expensive, and the housing shortage – both in terms of quality and quantity – affects around 40 percent of the region’s households.33




General public survey and professionals survey

General public survey and professionals survey


World (excluding China)
























Consumer goods and leisure

Consumer goods and leisure

Food, beverages and household products

Food, beverages and household products

Health care

Health care



Information technology

Information technology





Real estate

Real estate


















General public survey and professionals survey

General public survey and professionals survey


























Consumer goods and leisure

Consumer goods and leisure

Food, beverages and household products

Food, beverages and household products

Health care

Health care



Information technology

Information technology





Real estate

Real estate



















General public survey and professionals survey

General public survey and professionals survey

Latin America & the Caribbean

Middle East & North Africa
























Consumer goods and leisure

Consumer goods and leisure

Food, beverages and household products

Food, beverages and household products

Health care

Health care



Information technology

Information technology





Real estate

Real estate


















General public survey and professionals survey

North America


















Energy Materials Industry Consumer goods and leisure Food, beverages and household products Health care Finance Information technology Telecommunications Utilities Real estate

“ Access to finance will improve opportunities to make a livelihood and enhance the quality of life.� Professionals survey



General public survey and professionals survey

General public survey and professionals survey


Sub-Saharan Africa
























Consumer goods and leisure

Consumer goods and leisure

Food, beverages and household products

Food, beverages and household products

Health care

Health care



Information technology

Information technology





Real estate

Real estate



















Guiding Principles

Operational principles Inclusive

The WBA actively engages with and involves all stakeholders in building the Alliance and the benchmarks.


The WBA and its benchmarks are equally responsive to all stakeholders.


The WBA and its benchmarks are independent from the industries and companies they assess.

Focused on impact

The WBA and its benchmarks promote dialogue and measure impact on the SDGs to create positive change.

expert meetings.


The WBA collaborates with stakeholders and Allies to enhance alignment of corporate performance with internationally agreed sustainability objectives.

The Principles are divided into three categories:

Free and publicly available

The WBA is a public good, and its benchmarks and methodologies are free and publicly available to all.

The WBA developed a set of Guiding Principles to guide its work and reflect its values and mission. These Principles have been formed in collaboration with global stakeholders throughout the consultation phase, refined based on input and feedback from the roundtable consultations, online surveys and

operational principles explain how the Alliance functions, benchmark development principles address how benchmarks are designed, and

content principles cover what the benchmarks

Benchmark development principles Relevant

WBA benchmarks focus on sustainable development issues most relevant to industries’ core businesses and on the industries and companies that can make the most significant, actionable and unique contributions to these issues.

Clear in method and intent

WBA benchmarks are transparent about their methodology, development processes and results.


WBA benchmarks build upon the work done by others, adding further value with a focus on SDG impact.

Responsive and iterative

WBA benchmarks are updated regularly to reflect evolving stakeholder expectations, policies, developments, and company performance.

assess. Currently, the Guiding Principles reflect the outcomes and findings from the global consultation phase. However, the world is changing rapidly, and additional insights and perspectives are likely to emerge over time. These Principles may evolve – in consultation with stakeholders – to reflect new findings and realities.


Content principles Balanced

WBA benchmarks assess both positive and negative impacts that companies might have on the SDGs.

Reflective of societal expectations

WBA benchmarks reflect the extent to which companies' performance on relevant SDGs aligns with stakeholders’ expectations.


The WBA and its benchmarks engage and assess companies on their current performance on the SDGs and on exposure to sustainability risks and future opportunities.


The WBA is a newly launched institution that will serve as a public good that offers free, publicly available benchmarks to assess corporate performance and business impact in alignment with the SDGs. By working with and providing this information to all stakeholders helping civil society, companies, financial institutions, and governments exert their full influence and help the private sector play its role in delivering the SDGs. Working in the spirit of SDG 17 (partnerships for the goals) is central to the WBA’s approach. Index Initiative - as one of the founding partners - will undergo a name and governance change and become the WBA Secretariat that will lead the development and delivery of the WBA benchmarks.

The WBA Allies have supported the ambition and concept of the WBA throughout the global consultation phase. They represent a large mix of voices, from civil society and business networks, to financial institutions and multi-lateral organisations. The Allies are now helping further shape the WBA and the Alliance. All are working together to create an institution with a real-world impact.

The Alliance is a collective group of WBA Allies. WBA and its allies are currently exploring and shaping how they will work in partnership to maximise the impact of WBA as an institution and Alliance of stakeholders. This group of Allies has provided input and guidance to help shape the WBA’s priorities and its benchmarks. Members of the Alliance may partner with WBA in developing and delivering these new benchmarks. The Alliance has also been consulted on the WBA’s inclusive, dynamic governance model, which reflects the Alliance itself and the spirit of SDG 17.

The WBA Benchmarks show companies and their stakeholders where each company stands compared to its peers in terms of absolute progress, as well as where to improve. They, therefore, effectively provide business and stakeholders with a roadmap of how to contribute to the SDGs, empowering everyone, from investors to board room executives, to help companies bring about the future we want. The benchmarks will be easy to understand and free for everyone to access and use. The methodologies are based on the best available science, using existing international norms and standards, and are developed through a multi-stakeholder dialogue. This collaborative design through a true multi-stakeholder dialogue will build ownership and ensure the benchmarks reflect society’s expectations.



1 Ethical Corporation. (2017). The Responsible Business Trends Report 2017. London: Ethical Corporation. Retrieved from: 2 UNCTAD. (2014) (2014). World Investment Report 2014: Investing in the SDGs: An Action Plan. Geneva: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Retrieved from: 3 BSDC. (2017) Better Business, Better World. London: Business & Sustainable Development Commission. Retrieved from: 4 See 3 5 UNFPA. (2014). The Power of 1.8 Billion: Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future. New York: United Nations Population Fund.UNFPA Retrieved from: 6 Mettler, P., & Destraz, S. (2018). Sustainable Investment Spotlight: Millennials are the world’s most powerful consumers. Basel: Sustainable Investment Research, Bank J. Safra Sarasin. 7 Deloitte. (2017). The 2017 Millennial Survey: apprehensive millennials - seeking stability and opportunities in an uncertain world. London: Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited 8 See 3 9 See 2 10 Speech given at UNECE Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, 1-2 March, 2018 11 Elder, S., & Kring, S. (2016). Young and female - a double strike? Gender analysis of school-to-work transition surveys in 32 developing countries. Geneva: International Labour Office 12 United Nations. (2018). Goal 8: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from sustainable 13 IFC. (2013). IFC Jobs Study: Accessing Private Sector Contributions to Job Creation and Poverty Reduction. Washington D.C: International Finance Corporation 14 ITU. (2017). ICT Facts and Figures 2017. Geneva: International Telecommunication Union. Retrieved from: 15 UN Youth. (2013). Financial Inclusion of Youth. New York: United Nations 16 United Nations. (2018). Goal 4: Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform. Retrieved from sustainable


17 UNICEF. (n.d.). Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Retrieved from 18 ILO. (n.d.). Child labour in agriculture. Retrieved from 19 See 11 20 See 12 21 UN. (2014). The Global Youth Call: Prioritizing Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. New York: United Nations 22 Business Insider. (2018). The Netflix Exec in charge of hiring during the first 14 years says these 10 tips are indispensable to succeed in today’s tech world. Retrieved from

31 UN. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision – Key Facts. UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs. Retrieved from: 32 PSUP. (2016). Slum Almanac 2015/2016: Tracking Improvements in the Lives of Slum Dwellers. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlement Programme. Retrieved from: uploads/2016/02-old/Slum%20Almanac%202015-2016_EN.pdf 33 UN-Habitat. (2016). World Cities Report 2016: Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. Nairobi: United Nations Human Settlement Programme. Retrieved from: uploads/2017/02/WCR-2016-Full-Report.pdf 34 UNICEF Middle East and North Africa (2018). Education: Challenges. Retrieved from 35 See 3

23 Österblom, H., Jouffray, J.-B., Folke, C., Crona, B., Troell, M., Merrie, A., Rockström, J. (2015). Transnational

36 Demirgüç-Kunt, A.; Klapper, L.; Singer, D.; Ansar, S.; Hess, J. (2018). The Global Findex Database 2017:

Corporations as “Keystone Actors” in Marine Ecosystems. PLoS One 10, e0127533. doi:10.1371/journal.

Measuring Financial Inclusion and the Fintech Revolution. Washington, DC: International Bank for


Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank. Retrieved from:

24 IEA. (2017). CO2 emissions from fuel combustion: Highlights.

37 See 13

Paris: International Energy Agency/OECD. Retrieved from: publication/CO2EmissionsfromFuelCombustionHighlights2017.pdf 25 UNFCCC. (2017). Clean Energy Can Meet 90% of Paris Energy-Related Goals. Retrieved from 26 UNESCO. (n.d.) ICT in Education. Retrieved from 27 UN Global Compact. (n. d.). Activities to support advancing the SDGs from all reporting companies. Retrieved from; 28 WBCSD. (2018). Business and the SDGs: A survey of WBCSD members and Global Network Partners. Geneva: World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Retrieved from:; 29 KPMG. (2018). How to report on the SDGs: What good looks like and why it matters. India: KPMG International. Retrieved from:; 30 PwC. (2017). SDG Reporting Challenge 2017 Exploring business communication on the global goals. PwC. Retrieved from:


Support for the World Benchmarking Alliance

“ The World Benchmarking Alliance was born from a realisation that the way in which markets function is putting too much strain on the planet; a recognition that investment capital is not doing enough to reward good business practices.” Mark Field, UK Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

“ This is not about companies spending money as charity, viewing it that way disrespects the spirit of the SDGs. It’s about companies making the SDGs part of their core business and being held accountable.” Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, The Netherlands


“ The Commission should join UN organisations and national governments in endorsing, giving expertise and helping fund the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) as an independent organisation building free public rankings.” EC High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, Final Report 2018

“ I’m excited to be a part of a strong alliance of stakeholders that collectively shape and realise the World Benchmarking Alliance. It was wonderful that our recent Rome Roundtable comprehensively endorsed the progress of the WBA and enabled many more allies and ambassadors to come on board in support.” Steve Howard, Secretary General, The Global Foundation

“ We are deeply encouraged by the reporting initiatives such as the World Benchmarking Alliance and thank them for their engagement.” Amina J. Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary-General, 2018 ECOSOC Partnerships Forum





The views, opinions, findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in this report

Charlotte Reeves - Elie Chachoua - Gabriella Knighton - Gerbrand Haverkamp

do not necessarily reflect the views of all members of the stakeholder groups or the

Gonnie Been - Jerome Tagger - Kaysie Brown - Kirsty Collins - Lisa Kos

organisations they represent. The report is intended to be for information purposes

Lisanne Urlings - Marjolein Koornstra - Matt Gwyn - Mwansa Phiri - Pauliina Murphy

only and is not intended as promotional material in any respect.

Pieter Hemels - Pratik Desai - Samantha Ndiwalana - Steve Waygood


The WBA would like to thank all Allies, partners, organisations and individuals for

This report or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or distributed, in whole or

their contribution to the consultation phase of the World Benchmarking Alliance.

in part, without the explicit written permission of the World Benchmarking Alliance.

We greatly appreciate all perspectives, comments and questions shared.



Chanut Adrien – p.5 | Iryna Hromotska – p.6 | Khanongjansri p.8

Henk van der Hart

Mehendra_art – p. 13 | CC7 p.14 | Jomic – p. 16 | Hanafi Latif – p. 20 Aisyaqilumaranas - p.27 | haireena – p.30 | De Visu - p.32


Daniel Fung - p. 37 Alf Ribeiro p.43 | Alf Ribeiro p.44

Melinda George Deleuze

John Gress Media Inc – p. 46 | DrimaFilmp.50 | Kalcutta - p.53 StreetVJ - p. 56 | Circle Creative Studio – p. 58 | Bibiphoto p.61


Authentic travel p.62 | Reddees - p.66 | Dory F – p. 68

the Danish, Dutch and UK governments and Aviva

thomaskoch - p.72 | Laurens Hoddenbagh – p. 76 | marktucan - p. 88 Emily Marie Wilson p.96 | Seyephoto - p.103 | Rich T Photo – p. 106 CRS PHOTO – p. 111 | Jen Watson – p. 114 | Jeff Cagle – p. 116 Radiokafka – p. 128 | quetions123 – p. 130 September 2018 131 132

Turn static files into dynamic content formats.

Create a flipbook
Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.