At the end of 2018, I looked through my notes on the 240 Sharing Information on Progress Reports (SIP) that had been submitted that year. I wanted to take a closer look at how signatories were engaging in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or at least how they were reporting on that engagement within their SIP reports.
While one usually likes to hear the good news before the not so good news, I found that one of the most interesting insights gathered from this exercise wasn’t so much what was included in the reports, but what was missing. The first five points can be found in the first part of this post (click here.). Here are ten things that I was surprised to see were missing from so many of the reports.
6. Data: While both qualitative and quantitative information is important in reports, many reports shy away from providing quantitative data of any kind. This is particularly useful if it can be, and is, compared every year through subsequent SIP reports.
For example, several schools are using the Global Reporting Initiative guidelines or creating Integrated Reports combining both their financial and sustainability reports (including data on the SDGs). ISAE/FGV in Brazil produces a yearly report organised around the SDGs and following the GRI guidelines. The report outlines the different partnerships around the SDGs that the school is actively engaged in in addition to providing data on key indicators. The report is also fully bilingual (Portuguese/English).
7. Student engagement: Students are a central part of any business school. However few schools mention student engagement in relation to the SDGs. This includes not just in the curriculum (in extra curricular activities). Only a few mention student club involvement or extra curricular activities, or even engaging students in efforts the school has underway in relation to the SDGs. Even some of the reports that are written by students or with active student involvement don’t mention the SDGs.
An example of a school that has engaged students is Copenhagen Business School. Students for the Global Goals was a one day on-campus event organised by the CBS PRME office in collaboration with 13 student organisations from CBS. Each organisation hosted an activity uniting their area of interest with one or more of the SDGs. The aim was to increase awareness of the Goals with students on campus. Several companies were also involved in the event. Students are also part of the school’s Task Force on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
8. Through the school’s operations: While a growing number of schools are presenting how they are engaging students in issues such as climate change in the classroom, surprisingly few are engaged in these issues themselves through their own operations. Only a handful of schools report on their efforts around reducing their carbon footprint, waste reduction and sustainable procurement to name but a few.
That being said, more schools are providing in-depth insights as to how they are engaging in the SDGs through their operations.
For example Haskayne School of Business in Canada conducts regular waste audits including as part of their event protocol. The project team seeks to minimize the total amount of waste produced during events, to divert waste away from landfills, and to create tools, processes and protocols for the campus community to use to reduce event waste, control costs and support food rescue. So far, these audits have sparked ideas for future implementation, such as a food-cam to help advertise leftover food available for consumption to the campus community, as well as partnerships with the Students’ Union Food Bank or local food rescue organizations.
9. Partnerships for the SDGs: One of the many strengths of the SDGs is that they are a set of Goals agreed upon by the global community including governments, NGOs, civil society and the business sector. Because of this all of these different groups around the world are engaging in the SDGs in different ways and often in collaboration with each other. So it is surprising to see how few schools mentioned having any collaborations with external organisations around the SDGs.
For example the SDG Roadshow was organised by the signatories in the UK and Ireland Chapter in cooperation with the UN Global Compact UK Network. The Roadshow brought business and academics together to talk about the Global Goals locally in 11 of the UK’s biggest cities.
10. Impact: While more reports are mentioning the SDGs, not enough are discussion how the school is impacting the SDGs in their SIPs. This includes the impact not just on student but in particular through research and partnerships as well as the impact schools can have on the SDGs more locally on and around their campus. Too few schools mention impact as part of their goals (most of the goals mentioned by schools relate to raising awareness on campus).
For example, the University of St. Gallen integrates the SDGs throughout their report. It is mentioned right at the beginning as part of the letter from their President who writes; “Responsibility and sustainability are broadly anchored across all activities at our university, and they are deeply ingrained in our culture. This was recently strengthened by adding the UN SDGs as new areas of impact for our university”.
While there is a lot of good news around business school engagement in the SDGs, there are still a lot of opportunities that are not being explored enough by institutions. As has been mentioned many times, in particular here on PRiMEtime, our impact goes well beyond SDG 4 Quality Education. It goes across all the 17 SDGs.