Pandemic sees business sustainability take centre stage

Published date: 23 August 2021

New podcast series dives beneath the surface of SDG reporting

With the crucial ‘Decade of Action’ for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) already underway, how can companies look beyond the processes and paperwork, fully understanding the ways their impacts and actions help or hinder the progress of the SDGs?

SDGs: The Rising Tide is a new podcast series from GRI which will provide expert insights on business engagement in the SDGs, including the internal and external challenges. A new episode, focusing on each of the 17 SDGs in turn, will publish every two weeks.  Varied perspectives will be shared by corporate leaders, UN and international bodies, civil society and other stakeholders.

The introduction to the series – Episode 0: The Beginning – is now available. Bart Houlahan, co-founder of B Lab, and Peter Paul van de Wijs, GRI Chief External Affairs Officer, chart the growing role of companies in contributing towards the 2030 Agenda. As they see it, while the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic may impact the short-term progress of the SDGs, it is also changing the way businesses view sustainability.

Bart Houlahan sets out that there is a clear desire not return to the way things way were, but instead to find a new normal:

“We’ve had one of the largest economic shocks in the last century, which is undoubtedly affecting efforts to achieve the SDGs. However, there is increasing awareness that we need to restructure our economy around behaviour change, cultural change and structural change, moving to a new concept of value.”

Peter Paul van de Wijs agrees that the focus has shifted, with sustainability impacts moving to the fore of business priorities:

“The pandemic has made companies realize that the realities in which they operate have changed, while stakeholders are increasingly demanding transparency on corporate actions to mitigate impacts and risks. Sustainability reporting helps companies future-proof and prepare for what comes next. This is a positive side-effect of the crisis – with companies better understanding their limitations, recognizing the need to look beyond financial impacts.”

The Rising Tide can also be accessed on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google Podcasts. GRI thanks the Government of Sweden for supporting this project through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

GRI’s leading sustainability reporting standards and B Lab’s Business Impact Assessment (BIA) both help companies to manage and disclose their ESG impacts. Earlier this year, Complementary Use and Linkage of the GRI Standards and BIA published, enabling businesses to align and get the most out of using both approaches.

GRI provides a range of freely-available SDG reporting tools and resources, while the SDG reporting in practice case study series shares examples by companies around the world.

A GRI Business Leadership Forum on the SDGs is currently underway, bringing together a cohort of companies with a commitment to using corporate reporting as a driver for achieving the SDGs.