Work to achieve impacts in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals must “accelerate” to meet targets by 2030, according to a new survey.
The UN Global Compact and technology company Accenture surveyed more than 2,600 CEOs from 18 industries and 128 countries on how to achieve the SDGs, with just seven years until their 2030 target.
The overarching message from the survey was “painfully clear”, said UN Global Compact CEO Sanda Ojiambo and Accenture global sustainability services lead Peter Lacy in their introduction to the report. “We must accelerate our work in sustainability to build a more resilient future if we are to rescue the SDGs,” they said.
Sustainability is fast becoming a top priority for CEOs, the survey found, as “more action and support are needed” to address issues such as climate change, social inequalities, and biodiversity problems. This was in part down to the key role of investors in holding companies to account and pushing for positive impacts: 34% of CEOs said investors were a “top influencing stakeholder”.
In addition, 21% of CEOs said banks and insurers were “top influencing stakeholders” due to their role acting on behalf of smaller investors.
More than two thirds (69%) of CEOs said climate change was having a moderate or high impact on their businesses, while 79% cited threats to public health as having a moderate or high impact.
Almost all CEOs — 98% — agreed that it was part of their role to ensure their businesses were sustainable, helping to build resilience as well as helping to address societal issues.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for “resolve, determination, and… hope” to increase investment and engagement with the SDGs.
“Despite the limitations and long odds, we are working to push back against despair, to fight back against disillusion and to find real solutions,” he said. “Not perfect solutions — not even always pretty solutions — but practical solutions that are making a meaningful difference to people’s lives. Solutions that must put us on a pathway to a better, more peaceful future.”