SDGs, Sustainability Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 11
SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

SDG 11 Sustainable Cities and Communities is a continuation of my series on the SDGs.

“The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) define global sustainable development priorities and aspirations for 2030 and seek to mobilize global efforts around a common set of goals and targets. The SDGs call for worldwide action among governments, business and civil society to end poverty and create a life of dignity and opportunity for all, within the boundaries of the planet.”

Goal 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable

  • By 2030, ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services and upgrade slums
  • By 2030, provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, improving road safety, notably by expanding public transport, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, children, persons with disabilities and older persons
  • By 2030, enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in all countries
  • Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage
  • By 2030, significantly reduce the number of deaths and the number of people affected and substantially decrease the direct economic losses relative to global gross domestic product caused by disasters, including water-related disasters, with a focus on protecting the poor and people in vulnerable situations
  • By 2030, reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality and municipal and other waste management
  • By 2030, provide universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons and persons with disabilities
  • Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning
  • By 2020, substantially increase the number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, resilience to disasters, and develop and implement, in line with the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, holistic disaster risk management at all levels
  • Support least developed countries, including through financial and technical assistance, in building sustainable and resilient buildings utilizing local materials

 

Companies that include SDG 11 in their sustainability reports are Novartis, Ikea, and Ericsson.

Based in Switzerland Novartis is a global healthcare company with approximately 120,000 employees. Novartis aligns its disclosure SDG 11 with the Global Reporting Initiative G4 indicator EC7 Development and impact of infrastructure investments and services supported. Their involvement with SDG 11 includes contributing to the advancement of local healthcare infrastructure in emerging countries.

 

 

Ikea, a multinational company headquartered in the Netherlands, designs and sells furniture in over 400 retail stores across 49 countries. Its alignment with SDG 11 is represented by its research on future homes and communities to enable its customers and co-workers to live a more sustainable life.

 

Ericsson is a Swedish multinational company specializing in networking and telecommunications that has approximately 110,000 employees across 180 countries. The company has reported its alignment with SDG 11 by the connection of city buses to a mobile broadband network.

Stay tuned for SDG 12!

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Cities, Cities and sustainability reporting, ISO 37120, Sustainability Reporting

ISO 37120 – Cities’ Sustainability Reporting Option

Chicago - River Walk and State Street bridge
Photo by Michael J. White

There are numerous ways that cities can monitor their sustainability progress. One example is ISO 37120-2014 Sustainable development of communities — Indicators for city services and quality of life. As the first ISO standard for city indicators, it covers the three pillars of sustainability – economic, environmental, and social. The standard provides 100 indicators that include 17 areas, which are economy, education, energy, environment, finance, fire and emergency, governance, health, recreation, safety, shelter, solid waste, telecommunications, transportation, urban planning, wastewater, and water and sanitation. Cities of any size or location can choose which indicators to report.

What is in it for cities?

By using this set of standardized metrics, cities will see numerous benefits. Benchmarking performance and setting targets are a fundamental place to start. If you want to lower greenhouse gas emissions, you need to know what your emissions are. In addition, better management of city resources can be achieved with sustainability metrics. For example, keeping track of wastewater management initiatives can enable cities to manage more efficiently and effectively both financial and environmental resources. Urban planning can be facilitated by use of these indicators. These metrics can provide information about transportation, recreation, safety, and health to inform a city’s decisions about housing policies. In addition, comparisons with other reporting cities are possible on the World Council on City Data (WCCD) website.

An added benefit is the ability to obtain WCCD Certification. Certification levels depend on the number of indicators reported.

If you are involved with a city, this is worth looking into.

As a member of the Bloomington Commission on Sustainability, I will be working on applying this standard to the City of Bloomington, Indiana in the next several months. Over time, I will report about the process.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Risk Management, Sustainability, Sustainability Reporting, Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 1 End Poverty – Businesses can get involved!

 

United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 01
SWR supports the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

As promised in my last post, this post discusses how businesses can apply Goal 1 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Here are the targets to achieve the goal.

Targets

1.1 By 2030, eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day

1.2 By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions

1.3 Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the
vulnerable

1.4 By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

1.5 By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters

1.a Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions

1.b Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support
accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions

These targets are ambitious, and businesses have an important role to play in achieving them! Many businesses are already doing so, and there are many examples.

So your next questions are why and how would my business get involved?

A quote from Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations Secretary General (2008-2016), provides a big picture perspective.

…we must invest in people – in education, skills development, health care. This will help equip people for decent jobs and incomes. It will boost purchasing power. The virtuous cycle between human capital, jobs and income is central to building healthy local markets and a healthy world economy. It is good for people and good for business.

Evaluating your entire value chain (i.e., the full lifecycle of your products and services) can help identify areas that can reduce your negative impacts and improve your business simultaneously. Your business decisions about things such as employee wages, working conditions, product pricing, or raw material sources have impacts on people in poverty.

You can measure your direct impacts on the local economy. What proportion of your spending is on local suppliers at significant locations of operations? To illustrate how UPS affects the local economy, here is an excerpt from its 2015 sustainability report.

In 2015, UPS spent approximately US$943 million in procurement with small and diverse businesses in the United States.

A third-party study on the economic impact of our spending with small businesses, as well as minority-, women-, veteran-owned, and other diverse suppliers in 2015, found that UPS contributed more than US$2.3 billion to the U.S. economy (U.S. GDP) and sustained more than 14,200 jobs in the supply chain and local communities. A breakdown of that US$2.3 billion includes US$941 million in direct economic benefit from suppliers’ operations and activities; US$639 million in indirect impact from the economic benefit and employment supported in the suppliers’ respective supply chains from procuring goods and services; and US$743 million in community impact from the wider economic benefits that arise when the suppliers’ employees and those in their supply chains spend their earnings. Overall, for every million dollars that UPS spends with small and diverse suppliers, 15 jobs are created with those companies in their local communities.

If supply chains are a significant part of your business, evaluating them not only on economic criteria but also on social criteria can be an effective risk management tool. Do you have policies to screen for suppliers that adhere to international and your company-specific human rights and labor standards? You can have a positive influence by demanding adherence to these standards. This is a proactive approach that is much less costly than a reactive one.

How you are investing in the economic well being of your employees has a direct economic impact on poverty alleviation. Lower incomes reduce access to adequate housing, quality education, social networks, and social status among others. Evaluating the wages paid along with how they compare to the minimum wages in the local area puts a focus on a company’s economic impact on workers. For example, Abengoa, a Spanish company that applies technological solutions in the energy and environment sectors, disclosed in its 2015 sustainability report the percentage paid to its workers above the local minimum wage.

abengoa-ec5-2015

 

Another example where companies can assess their impacts on poverty is examining their significant positive and negative indirect economic impacts. In the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Standards, there are several examples of indirect economic impacts that illustrate this idea.

  • How does your company change the productivity of organizations, sectors, or the whole economy?
  • Is your company involved in economic development in areas of high poverty?
  • Does your company’s economic impact in a particular location improve or deteriorate social or environmental conditions?
  • What is the availability of your products and services for those on low incomes?

What should you do with your answers to these questions and your evaluation of your business? You can incorporate these issues into your business strategy. You can set targets for improvement. You can publish a sustainability report to measure your progress.

Baxter International is an example of a company that has set targets and reported them its sustainability reports. In its 2015 report, Baxter pledged to increase it spending with diverse suppliers by 50%, from 4% of relevant spending in 2015 to 6% in 2020. These published targets are public commitments that reveal the company’s sustainability strategy and implementation plans.

To be a part of the solution to end poverty, your business can be involved; it can measure its impacts, set targets, and report its progress in a sustainability report.

The next blog will examine how your business can help achieve SDG Goal 2 Zero Hunger.

Assurance Readiness Review, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Risk Management, Sustainability Reporting

New Book Available Now!

Sustainability Reporting: Getting Started, 2015 (2nd edition). Gwendolen B. White
Sustainability Reporting: Getting Started, 2015 (2nd edition). Gwendolen B. White

My new book is now available at Business Expert Press! This latest edition presents the rationale for reporting along with a discussion of the major sustainability reporting frameworks such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines, the Integrated Reporting Framework, and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board Standards. You will find detailed examples of the GRI G4 Guidelines from actual company reports such as UPS, Nestle, and Weyerhaeuser, to name a few. These examples show how major companies have applied the GRI guidelines. This book can help get your organization started on its reporting journey.

 

Risk Management, Sustainability Reporting

Idea for Assurance on CSR Reports

An idea for improved sustainability report assurance.
An idea for improved sustainability report assurance.
Photo: Gwen White

In my last blog, I wrote about VWs limited assurance report on its latest sustainability report. I think limited assurance makes sense for sustainability reports after a high level of assurance has occurred. In VW’s case, this high level of assurance never had occurred.

How do we get companies to have their sustainability reports assured at a higher level? I suggest that high level assurance be done every other year with limited assurance to be performed in the years in between. This idea has some parallels to financial statement audits.

Every year public companies publish full financial statements, which are audited once a year. In an audit, considerable testing is performed on the systems that provide the data and the data itself. This testing includes gathering corroborative evidence such as checking calculations, obtaining third party confirmations, inspecting assets, and comparing valuations to external markets.

In the accounting profession, a “review” engagement of financial information is limited assurance and is often done in the interim period between the publication of full financial statements. In the interim period, companies issue financial information but not complete statements. During a review engagement, testing or other corroborative procedures are not done; instead, the auditors make inquiries and flag and research inconsistencies. After these limited procedures, the auditors state that they are not aware of any “material” modifications that should be made to the  interim financial information for it to be in accordance with the relevant accounting principles. “Material” means it is big enough that it would affect your decisions about the company.

To illustrate, this is an example schedule for audits and reviews.

  • Audit, big deal done every year
    • Review, first quarter
    • Review, second quarter
    • Review, third quarter
  • And back to the audit

When these review engagements are done between audits, there is in essence an audit benchmark. During the audit, the data systems and controls have been evaluated; extensive testing has been done. The audit provides reasonable assurance that the information is not misstated in a major way due to errors or fraud. Limited assurance can be done in between audits because the audited financial statements serve as a benchmark upon which to assess subsequent financial information.

This could work for sustainability reports where limited assurance (review engagement) occurs between high level assurance. The costs would be less than doing a high level of assurance every year. As demand for assurance on sustainability reports increases, this would be an important step in achieving higher level assurance.