Davos 2019 | Benchmarking the SDGs

By Liesl Truscott 

I’ve just returned from Davos where the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) hosted a roundtable to discuss the role of corporates in meeting the SDGs – shining a light on the new “SDG2000”. The SDG2000 is a list of 2000 companies identified by the WBA as potentially having the biggest impact on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These companies will form the focal point from which the WBA benchmarking will revolve.

Textile Exchange is a close ally of the WBA and runs a corporate benchmarking program for the textile and apparel sector. The meeting in the Swiss Alps gave me the opportunity to sense-check our program amongst colleagues with a wide range of benchmarking interests.

Everyone agrees that benchmarking is a valuable tool for raising the visibility of corporate activity, the gaps that need addressing, and a way to measure individual company as well as sectoral progress. While in Davos I picked up some wonderful gems from people within leading companies that clearly want to make a difference, and I want to share these words of wisdom (and quite frankly reassurance) that change is afoot.

Here’s a compilation of views and opinions coming from the 30 or so of us in the room.

We are beyond the business case – there is a revolution in capitalism underway. You could say that the SDGs are the results of market failure. Whether it’s a business case or a moral case – it should have the same outcome. Business must have a purpose that connects to people and planet. Simply put, there is no business without the SDGs. And besides… while year one might be an investment by year two or three the investment pays off. That’s the business case, as strong as any other (non-sustainability related) investment. You need to have the courage of your convictions:

“As a company, we make bold announcements – put ourselves out there – and then figure out how we are going to do it.”

Benchmarking democratizes information. We need to get from measuring strategy and policy to measuring outcome and impact. But we are not there yet, impact data is scarce and reported inconsistently or in a variety of ways. But you should start measuring – even if it’s imperfect. The very act of measuring is needed to improve the metrics.

The message was clear that there are three big opportunities that need attention NOW:

  1. Reduce the complexity – we’ll get nowhere if people don’t understand their role – there needs to be a simplified path of action.
  2. Do more and do it faster – it’s important to applaud progress when it’s made – then push for more.
  3. Get the rest to care – too many companies fly under the radar and need to be part of the SDG success story.

Reflecting on the train leaving Davos to come back to the UK, I was inspired by the vision around the table, and the knowledge that in 10 years’ time we cannot be looking at the “green ticks” on our sustainability report cards and finding that they have nothing to do with what’s really happening in the world out there.

Benchmarking will be that connection between sustainability reports and reality.  

Visit our website: Textile Exchange – Material Change Index