Only 1 in 3 companies is aligned with the SDGs, according to a report by Esade and SEIDOR

In Spain, the commitment of companies –especially SMEs– with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is still limited.

Thomas Osborne
Thomas Osborne
30 November 2022 Wednesday 22:41
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Only 1 in 3 companies is aligned with the SDGs, according to a report by Esade and SEIDOR

In Spain, the commitment of companies –especially SMEs– with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is still limited. 80% of large companies are well aware of the 2030 Agenda and the United Nations SDGs, a percentage that drops to 25% in the case of small and medium-sized companies. "If the SDGs are not known, it is difficult to implement them. There is a lack of pedagogy," says Carles Agustí, an expert in international governance and the SDGs and co-author of the SDG 2022 Barometer, a study promoted by ESADE in collaboration with SEIDOR and United VARs that analyzes the integration and implementation of the SDGs in Spanish companies.

Iván González, corporate director of Marketing, Communication and Sustainability at SEIDOR, points out that "more and more companies have policies related to the SDGs, but there is still room to continue implementing new measures, this is one of the great challenges that the entire business fabric must face”.

When the halfway point of the implementation of the SDGs is reached, the Barometer indicates that only one in three companies has a business strategy aligned with the fulfillment of said objectives. The other two are still in a very early phase of the process, especially in the case of SMEs. "Overall, Spanish companies are beginning their sustainability strategies and the fight against climate change, although there is a big difference between the reality of large companies and that of SMEs," adds Agustí.

In this sense, the difference in size between companies is a determining factor since, while three out of four companies with fewer than 50 employees have not integrated the SDGs and do not plan to do so, among large corporations, the number of who have not yet done their homework is 9%.

The factors that drive companies to adopt and implement the SDGs are cost savings and brand and reputation building. Thus, 54% of the companies state that they are introducing these sustainability policies to save costs, as there is a correlation between greater efficiency in production processes and a reduction in energy costs. The second most valued factor to promote sustainability policies among firms are the benefits on the brand and reputation, which reaches 53% of companies, according to this study based on 300 interviews with managers and managers of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility in companies from more than ten industrial sectors.

For Carles Agustí “the adoption and implementation of the SDGs in companies means an investment in innovation and adaptation to change and the new social and economic reality. The business sector is called upon to carry out actions to contribute to the 2030 Agenda and, for this, it is essential that companies correctly align with the SDGs and that they work specifically to achieve them”.

According to the Barometer, a large part of the Spanish business sector is unaware of the 2030 Agenda. Specifically, 44% of the companies consulted have heard of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs. If this variable is analyzed based on the size of the company, the vast majority of large companies are aware of the 2030 Agenda, while only one in four SMEs is aware of this.

The size of the organization also influences the existence of a Sustainability Department. While the presence of this division in SMEs is practically nil, in more than 69% of large companies there is a consolidated Sustainability Department.

The report highlights that 55% of the companies analyzed are working, above all, to meet SDG 12 –achieving sustainable consumption and production–, and 51% SDG 7 –increasing the consumption of affordable, safe, sustainable and modern–. "Companies focus more on the economic and environmental dimensions of the SDGs," says Agustí.

The Barometer details that only 30% of companies have carried out some type of analysis of the degree of implementation of the sustainability strategy in their organization. Specifically, 89% of firms with less than 50 workers have not carried out any type of analysis, while two out of three organizations with more than 250 employees have carried out an internal analysis to verify compliance with the SDGs.

In addition, only 10% of the Spanish companies consulted have a certificate, issued by an independent entity, confirming the contribution of the company's sustainability strategy to the SDGs. In this sense, despite the existence of certifications, research has highlighted that one in four companies that are aligned with the SDGs does so without formally accrediting their contribution.