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Engaging with the Sustainable Development Goals – not Business as Usual

Launched with great fanfare a year ago, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) build on the success of Millennium Development Goals and go well beyond them. Like the MDGs, the SDGs have three interconnected objectives: ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity by 2030, all while tackling climate change. However, the SDGs were developed in a true public/private/NGO collaboration, taking multiple perspectives into account and addressing issues critical to developed and developing countries alike. There’s a call to action here, too: the goals specifically ask the business community to engage in solving global challenges. They also give companies a new way to evaluate their business models in a sustainability context.

 

A year out, companies are engaging with the goals in a variety of ways from pro forma to strategic – as well they should: according to research from PwC UK, 90% of people think it’s important for businesses to work with the SDGs, and 78% of people are more likely to buy from a company using them.

 

How companies are using the SDGs: a few examples

 

Unilever: Leading consumer packaged goods company Unilever celebrated the launch of the goals with short animated videos explaining how the company supports individual goals like clean water and gender equality. Later, it engaged employees in the process, asking them to make videos about what the goals meant to them on a personal level. By bringing employees into the conversation, Unilever creates a connection that makes the goals that much more embedded in the organization.

 

Coca-Cola Enterprises: Many companies, including Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE), are mapping their existing CSR initiatives to the SDGs; CCE even shared its mapping in a sustainable development infographic. While this is valuable, it would be even more meaningful if CCE used the goals and underlying targets to inspire strategy, including future goals and targets. Not many companies are there yet, but it’s where leaders are headed.

 

Novozymes: For example, Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company, describes its approach to connecting the SDGs and its business in its sustainability report. The company elaborated at last June’s Sustainable Brands conference in San Diego on how it mapped its company purpose, strategy and long-term goals to the SDGs. The rationale is that thinking about these goals now means it will be better-positioned to deal with a tougher regulatory environment and scarcity of natural resources like water. The company even developed a tool to evaluate its innovation pipeline against the goals.

 

Engaging with the SDGs

 

Initial Steps

 

1. Spot opportunities to leverage the goals through mapping, engagement and communications, like CCE did.

 

2. Figure out what steps you’ve already taken throughout your value chain, in internal and external CSR initiatives and through strategic philanthropy. Are there opportunities to have the goals inform existing initiatives?

 

Deeper Engagement

 

3. While the 17 goals are inspiring – and it’s hard to imagine anyone questioning them – the real substance of the SDGs lies in the 169 targets that set out how the goals will be met. So it’s important to dig into the details of each target and figure out what’s best aligned with your business and where the threats and opportunities lie. The PwC UK survey reports that more than 30% of businesses surveyed only plan to assess impact on some of the SDGs relevant to their businesses, while just 10% plan to assess impact on all relevant SDGs.

 

4. In your next materiality assessment process, leverage the goals as another lens by which to assess your material issues. The SDG Compass guide, created by the UN especially for businesses looking to integrate SDGs into strategy, offers step-by-step advice.

 

Looking to the future

 

Despite the high profile and flurry of activity around the SDGs, a recent, sober assessment by DNV-GL  of the likelihood the goals will be reached concluded that eight of the goals are unlikely to be achieved in any global region by 2030. But the same report, which was presented to the UN Global Compact (UNGC), offers examples of how UNGC signatories are having an impact on each of the goals and sets out a challenge to business to raise their level of ambition and improve the odds of success.

 

Implementing the SDGs is not business as usual. It’s business for a sustainable future.

Kellogg’s CR Report Includes Bold New Goals

Earlier this month, Kellogg Company published its ninth annual Corporate Responsibility Report, which includes an ambitious set of new targets to help combat climate change. BuzzWord has worked with Kellogg from the beginning, helping it develop and update its reporting strategy and report content every year since 2007. While the company has long had goals aimed at reducing its own environmental impacts – including greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, energy, water and waste – the new targets outlined in this latest report reach into the supply chain and are even more robust and science-based than previous years. Specifically, Kellogg has pledged to reduce GHGs from its own facilities by 65 percent by 2050, and to work with direct suppliers to help reduce their emissions by 50 percent during that same timeframe. These targets were first announced at the climate talks in Paris in December 2015.

 

Kellogg has also pledged to remove artificial colors and flavors from Kellogg’s® branded cereals, a variety of Kellogg’s® branded snack bars and Eggo® frozen foods by the end of 2018. Worldwide, the company expects to change approximately 80 product recipes. Already in North America, 75 percent of the company’s cereals are made without artificial colors and more than half are made without artificial flavors.

 

Of course, Kellogg’s report covers recent accomplishments as well as forward-looking commitments. Their achievements include the following:

 

  • A 62 percent decrease in waste to landfill (per metric ton of food produced) since 2005
  • Steady reductions in sodium and sugar in its existing food portfolio
  • Programs to improve farmer livelihoods and crop sustainability are reaching about 8,000 smallholder farmers to date, including approximately 3,000 women
  • The donation of 1.4 billion servings of food to children and families around the world since 2013, through the company’s signature Breakfasts for Better Days® hunger-relief program
  • A Board of Directors that includes eight men and six women – one of the most diverse in corporate America

 

Kellogg’s Corporate Responsibility Report addresses these and other topics in its four “pillar” areas of marketplace, workplace, community and environment, plus the critical cross-cutting issue of responsible sourcing. Read the full report here.

Putting a Spotlight on Progress

After years of research and development, Keurig Green Mountain recently reached an important milestone. To meet its 2020 sustainability targets and address consumer concerns, Keurig announced the introduction of recyclable K-Cup® pods this spring. The Keurig sustainability report was an important part of the launch, chronicling the company’s journey, which included tests to learn more about what happens to K-Cup® pods in the recycling stream. Armed with this knowledge, Keurig began transitioning its manufacturing facilities to bring the first recyclable K-Cup® pods to market in June of 2016.

 

The company also made exciting progress toward its goal of balancing 100% of the water used in all its beverages through projects that give back an equal volume of water to people and nature. Based on the K-Cup® pod sales volume for 2015, the company has balanced nearly 80% of the water used in its beverages through a funding partnership with Raise the River, a coalition of organizations working to restore the Colorado River Delta.

 

To tell the story of the company’s continuing sustainability journey, BuzzWord crafted a suite of communications, including a full PDF report, a summary brochure and updates to the company’s sustainability webpages. Designed in partnership with Celery Design Collaborative, the report and brochure used friendly graphics, simple animation and warm imagery of employees, farmers and partners.

JPMorgan Chase Takes a Two-Report Approach to Better Meet Stakeholders’ Needs

Like many companies, JPMorgan Chase has a broad set of stakeholders interested in information about the company’s corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts. And, like many companies, JPMorgan Chase has duly issued an annual Corporate Responsibility Report – with BuzzWord’s assistance since 2012 – to provide stakeholders with the information and data they were seeking.

 

For the 2015 reporting cycle, however, JPMorgan Chase and BuzzWord decided to take a slightly different tack. Recognizing that the company’s varied stakeholders have distinct information needs, we tailored an approach to better meet those differing needs. Rather than an “all things to all stakeholders” approach, the company issued two reports: JPMorgan Chase’s 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report, which uses a lively, magazine-style format to focus on the company’s philanthropic initiatives to expand access to opportunity in communities around the world. And its 2015 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report – a GRI G4 Core report – which provides clear, concise information on the ESG issues JPMorgan Chase views as among the most important to its business and how it is addressing them.

 

This two-report approach allowed JPMorgan Chase to better target the content for each report – enabling the company to more clearly communicate its core messages and its stakeholders to more easily access the information they want.

Novelis Continues its Sustainability Reporting Leadership

Atlanta-based Novelis is the global leader in aluminum flat rolled products, which are used in beverage cans, license plates, aircraft skins and more. Novelis is also the world’s largest recycler of aluminum. With a bold vision to reduce the embedded carbon in its products by dramatically increasing its use of recycled content, Novelis is recognized as a sustainability leader. The company is also an award-winning sustainability reporter – it released its fourth annual sustainability report in December 2015 – and BuzzWord has provided Novelis reporting strategy and content development assistance every step of the way.

 

The development of Novelis’ 2015 sustainability report took place amidst a transition point in the company’s sustainability journey. After a few years in which Novelis rapidly expanded its operations and laid out a ground-breaking sustainability vision, market headwinds and a change in the company’s leadership meant that 2015 brought a refocusing of priorities toward operational efficiency and executing on its investments. The challenge for the 2015 sustainability report, then, was to clearly convey the company’s strong progress and ongoing commitment to sustainability, while also transparently communicating its refocusing of priorities and expectations about a likely moderated pace of progress in the near term. The resulting GRI G4 Comprehensive report does just that.

 

Southwestern Energy Publishes First Full CR Report

Southwestern Energy (SWN), a Houston-based natural gas company specializing in hydraulic fracturing, published its first full corporate responsibility report in late 2015. BuzzWord provided assistance to SWN – a first-time reporter – from the outset, assisting with everything from reporting strategy, benchmarking and materiality analysis to content development and GRI analysis.

 

SWN has a great story to tell, as it is among the leaders in the industry in wastewater recycling, methane capture and community engagement. The challenge was telling that story to a broader public that is often critical of the industry as a whole.

 

The resulting GRI G4 Core report includes a wealth of detail and data on SWN’s environmental performance, conservation efforts, health and safety practices, community engagement, workforce programs and more. The report moved the company from 27th to 6th in an influential ranking, conducted by the Investor Environmental Health Network, of the top 30 oil and gas companies’ reporting and transparency efforts.

Is the mobile phone killing the sustainability report?

We’ve all been there. You navigate to a company’s corporate responsibility website or sustainability report and come upon an engaging landing page. Something moves, drawing you in. You scroll through key messages and stats, maybe sample some video. Then you start to click around looking for a specific piece of information. But to mix some carnivorous metaphors – where’s the beef? You find the site is all sizzle and no steak. If you’re able to find substance at all, it’s brief, breezy and not especially candid or strategic.

 

What happened? A May-December romance between a new technology trend of fluid design (or the ability of a website to be viewed on phone, tablet or laptop) coupled with the age-old tendency of organizations toward opacity and obfuscation. Mate the two and you can end up with fluffy little communications that multiply like Tribbles.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. A number of organizations have cracked the code and provided corporate responsibility and sustainability communications that work well on any device without sacrificing transparency and comprehensive disclosure.

 

The Ford sustainability report, which aside from an eight-page PDF summary is all online and all responsive, provides engaging top-level messages on material issues while also allowing users to drill down to details and data . Nike’s sustainable business website, designed to appeal to consumers as well as sustainability specialists, offers multiple ways to engage with key messages and data and points power users to a PDF report that offers a comprehensive look at progress against their targets.

 

It is possible to have your beef and eat it too.

Trending Now: Megatrends

Everywhere you look in the sustainability world, megatrends are being identified, analyzed and prioritized. PwC, for example, has spotlighted a set of megatrends that it is using to inform all of its work. Many of their peers and consultancies have done similar trend analysis.

 

Why this surge of interest? Perhaps the most obvious reason is that as the pace of change accelerates in technology, society, geopolitics — and even the natural world — it’s ever more important to understand the direction and drivers of that change. The current focus on disruptive innovation is also a natural fit with megatrend analysis. As organizations of all sizes embrace the idea of disruption (if not always the reality), it’s essential to understand what the disruptive forces are and how they will influence winners and losers in the marketplace.

 

Megatrends are also making their way into sustainability communications and reporting. Companies ranging from DSM to Bosch are articulating how megatrends are shaping their business.

 

At Ford Motor Company, chief futurist and megatrend guru Sheryl Connelly has been identifying consumer-related trends for years and sharing her insights publicly through a trend report book. For the Ford 2014/15 Sustainability Report, BuzzWord developed an innovative method for using megatrends to inform and “amplify” the materiality analysis used to shape the company’s sustainability strategy and reporting. The same report identifies the mobility megatrends that are guiding Ford’s thinking as it develops sustainable solutions for future global mobility.

 

Are megatrends a trend that will last? Most trends wax and wane, but unless the pace of change slows, identifying important changes in the world will continue to offer important insights to inform sustainability strategies and initiatives.

Smithfield launches new integrated report

Smithfield Foods today launched a new website, www.smithfieldfoods.com, that brings together a wide range of information about its ongoing efforts to be a sustainable consumer packaged goods company. Embedded in the site is the company’s integrated report, with content developed by BuzzWord. The new site replaces a corporate responsibility-only site and a corporate website (there’s also a consumer-facing site at www.smithfield.com). The site is notable because it includes a range of content that updates frequently, including press releases and videos, along with the comprehensive disclosures in its integrated reports. The entire site is designed to be responsive, or useable on any size device.

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