Australian business is embracing the Sustainable Development Goals

| July 20, 2016

What are the most important Sustainable Development Goals for Australian and New Zealand organisations and how can they take action to achieve them? Dr Leeora Black, Managing Director of the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR), has the details of one of the largest ongoing studies on CSR in the world.

The first broad-scale survey of Australian business and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows that Australian business is very aware of the goals and ready to take action.

ACCSR’s 8th Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand looked at early awareness and planning for the SDGs in our report “Pathways to the Sustainable Development Goals”, released in July 2016.

Our Annual Review is one of the largest ongoing longitudinal studies on CSR in the world. It is based on survey research of people working in CSR and sustainability, or working for organisations that are committed to responsible business practices.

The SDGs are still fresh, having been adopted in September 2015 by 193 countries including Australia, but we found that a majority of our respondents were aware of the goals, whether they worked in CSR or not.

Our research revealed the most important goals for Australian and New Zealand are Gender Equality, Good Health and Wellbeing, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Industry Innovation and Infrastructure and Climate Action. It was encouraging to see that organisations are planning to address a multiple set of goals and see important linkages in their broader societal contributions. Engaging in strategic partnerships is the key action they will undertake in the year ahead – suggesting they understand that advancing the Sustainable Development agenda requires collective action.

We also saw industry-level differences in high priority goals. The figure below shows how the top three goals resolved by industry sector. The results provide a good basis for organisations to understand their industry-wide commitments and a starting point for mapping their business strategies against these priority goals. It also creates the potential for collaborative efforts within and across industries to advance the sustainable development agenda.

Figures ACCSR Annual Report 2016

The Annual Review also revealed this year’s CSR Top Ten – the organisations that scored greater than 75% for CSR management capabilities, as ranked by their employees. The CSR Top 10 in Australia are Abergeldie, Deloitte, Ebm-papst A&NZ, KPMG, NAB, PwC, South32, WaterAid, Westpac and Yarra Valley Water. The CSR Top 3 in New Zealand were Bank of New Zealand, Toyota NZ and Z Energy.

Partners for the 2016 Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand were La Trobe Business School, Massey University, the New Zealand Sustainable Business Council, Sustainable Business Australia, Engineers Without Boarders and Wright Communications. This year 1,080 respondents participated in the research ― the highest number in its history.

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