SDGs: It’s Not Just About Collecting Data, it’s What You Do With it

The SDGs require renewed support and financing, experts say ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. Credit: Amanda Voisard / UN Women / CC BY-NC-ND

By Tim Mohin
AMSTERDAM, Sep 21 2020 – The unprecedented challenges posed by COVID-19 have reminded us that we are an interconnected global community. While this crisis rightly has dominated our attention, we must not lose sight of progress on the broader aims of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement.

Like the pandemic, our response must transcend national boundaries, engage the public and private sectors – and the pace has to quicken.

Corporations are absolutely essential to sustainable development. We live in a globalized economy where some multinational companies have revenues that exceed the GDP of many countries, workforces in the millions and supply chains that touch every corner of the world.

The good news is that most large companies recognize their responsibility and voluntarily report their progress, using the GRI Standards, which are the world’s most widely used for sustainability reporting.

It is crucial that all businesses recognize their impacts on society. This means a changed outlook in boardrooms and C-suites – from a solely inward facing consideration of financially material business impacts to a broader recognition of the full impacts to society.

Yet, without a full understanding of these impacts, businesses cannot enact the changes needed to improve their sustainability performance. At the core of the issue is transparency. And, not just any transparency.

For more than two decades, GRI has advanced the practice of reporting and managing impacts – those material to the company and the world around it. This kind of disclosure is needed to advance sustainable development and provide the accountability demanded by investors, consumers, employees, governments and civil society.

The quality of reporting is a critical issue. For transparency to be an effective tool, the disclosures must be complete, accurate and timely. Many companies do an excellent job, but more work is needed to raise the bar when it comes to the robustness and relevance of sustainability data.

Credit: United Nations

Companies and their accountants play a big role to help improve quality. Policy makers must also step in with mandates that require consistent, reliable, high-quality ESG disclosure. I am very encouraged by the commitment from the EU to enhance the non-financial reporting directive under their ‘Green Deal’.

The accountancy profession plays a major role here. For example, the Accounting for Sustainability call to action in response to climate change, signed by 14 accountancy bodies around the world, emphasised the influential role of accountants in supporting businesses to respond to the climate emergency.

This includes using their expertise to provide “financial and strategic analysis, disclosure, scenario analysis and assurance” while “ensuring transparency and appropriate disclosure around climate related risks and opportunities.”

As Michael Izza (CEO of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) put it at the World Economic Forum 2020, “it’s not just about collecting the data, it’s what you do with it”. He then identified the importance of accountants using their skills to measure, report, audit and assure data. I wholeheartedly agree.

The reality is that good corporate governance requires a long-term perspective that understands, considers and balances the multiple and competing demands of stakeholders.

Robust, reliable and complete ESG disclosure, based on global reporting standards, is one of the tools available to corporate leaders to make this possible. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we face multi-faceted challenges as one interconnected global society. Now more than ever we must all be good stewards of one another and the global commons.

A version of this article was originally published in the ICAEW Quarterly (magazine of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales).


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Nono the Carbon Footprint Bear—Part of Peru’s Ambitious Work on Climate Action

By Kirla Echegaray Alfaro
LIMA, Peru, Sep 21 2020 – On the eve of its bicentennial, Peru is addressing climate change with the needed sense of urgency and ambition. Our inclusive, ‘whole society’ approach aims to awaken new opportunities that are within reach of all of our citizens. Like COVID-19, climate change is a landmark which will have a clearly established before and after period. Without a doubt, it is paving a path towards sustainable development that will improve the well-being of all Peruvians.

In this context, Carbon Footprint Peru is a government-led initiative aimed to recognize the efforts of public and private organizations in reducing their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. By doing so, they also contribute to reaching the 35 percent GHG reduction target established in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) by 2030.

To encourage more organizations to join the Peru Carbon Footprint, Peru’s Ministry of Environment (MINAM) created a symbolic figure, named Nono. Nono is a curious and observant Peruvian spectacled bear who uses his large glasses to seek out and monitor the carbon footprints left by companies. He also encourages new organizations to join this environmental initiative through the platform created for that purpose. In this way, they will leave a record of their contributions to face the climate crisis and contribute to the construction of a resilient and low-carbon country.

More than 165 organizations have already registered with the platform and 61 have calculated their GHG emissions. Our goal for the bicentennial is to have at least 100 organizations measure their carbon footprint, thus strengthening the country’s climate action and demonstrating that companies, in a COVID-19 context, are increasingly migrating towards a new coexistence that respects the environment, so ignored in recent times.

MINAM seeks to convey a clear message: climate change is a fact that should concern us as much as the COVID-19 pandemic currently threatening the health of all humanity. Today, Nono needs the help of all citizens to promote his message through social networks and to invite brands to join Peru’s sense of urgency and ambition to face climate change.

Kirla Echegaray Alfaro

Nono, Peru’s Carbon Footprint Bear, is part of the work being done in the country through the Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP). CAEP is an initiative of the NDC Partnership, a global coalition of more than 180 countries and institutions supporting countries in improving the quality, increasing the ambition, and accelerating the implementation of their national climate plans. It also has the support of Peru’s NDC Support Programme, implemented by the MINAM, with technical assistance from the United Nations Development Program, and is also part of the International Climate Initiative.

The work conducted under CAEP strengthens Peru’s comprehensive vision for managing climate change by addressing five dimensions: (1) strengthening the institutional framework; (2) multi-sectoral implementation; (3) multi-level implementation; (4) multi-stakeholder work; and (5) NDC funding. Through this initiative, Peru is working with various partners such as the AVINA Foundation, the Global Green Growth Institute, ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, SouthSouthNorth and its local partner Libélula, the United Nations Capital Development Fund, and the World Wide Fund for Nature. The work includes, as an example, the development of sectoral implementation plans, the preparation of emissions inventories at the regional level, training programs at various levels, the elaboration of a technical proposal for the National Strategy for Climate Change 2050, the design of a reporting and monitoring system for international climate finance, the design of a guarantee fund for climate responsible investments and, of course, raising awareness and creating ownership in various societal actors through campaigns such as Nono’s.

The work done through CAEP is part of Peru’s broad and ambitious action to catalyze transformational change towards resilient, sustainable, low-emission development. The involvement of the private sector in climate action is essential and entails a win-win relationship. There is a growing demand for highly efficient, low-carbon products and services. Thanks to the Peru Carbon Footprint, organizations are reducing their costs, promoting innovation, improving their reputation, and meeting Sustainable Development Goal 13: “Climate Action”.

Nono’s voice today is the voice of all. The time to act is now. Let’s share his message and leave a positive footprint.


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