UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and The US Ranking
By Nicole Bryck | April 20th, 2017
The United Nations just released their new corporate responsibility rankings and you will be surprised where US companies rank. Out of the 100 top companies, many US companies ranked right at the bottom of the list. Companies such as Apple, Disney, Walmart, and General Electric did not include sustainable development in their annual reports.
The companies that were chosen were 50 of the largest global companies with annual reports for 2016 and the other 50 companies were either some of the largest companies by revenue on each continent, the world’s largest family-owned companies or a firm on Fortune’s Most Admired Companies list.
Analysts then searched through the annual reports looking for the 17 UN sustainable development goals (SDG). These 17 SDG goals are below:
So how did US companies get such a low ranking? American companies scored far worse than European companies. Eighty-two percent of surveyed companies made at least one mention of sustainable development themes, of the 18 companies that made no mention whatsoever, 15 of these are based in the US. The top US companies were Whirlpool and PepsiCo. Find out more about their sustainable development initiatives at the following links:
But these companies were ranked at 31 and 40!
Who are the leaders on this report?
1. Ranked number 1 is Volvo, a Swiss company which has the following slogan on their website: “Our Promise to the World: Responsibility at the heart of everything we do.” Here is a link to their sustainability page: http://www.volvocars.com/en-ca/about/our-company/sustainability
2. Ranked second is Novartis, also a Swiss company. It’s a pharmaceutical company with powerful statements on their corporate responsibility page such as, “Our commitment: improving health through responsible business”, “Expanding access to healthcare”, “Doing business Responsibly” and “Ethical business conduct”. Here’s a link to their corporate responsibility page: https://www.novartis.ca/en/about-us/corporate-responsibility
What’s in the water in Switzerland and where can we get some?
3. Ranked third is Sainsbury, the second largest chain of supermarkets in the United Kingdom. Their website reveals a staggering list of commitments, such as encouraging kids to lead a healthy, providing sustainable fish, investing in the future of British farming, supporting animal health and welfare, helping customers reduce waste, reducing their own waste, training and developing their talent, having a diverse and inclusive workplace and impacting the local community by donating £400 million to charitable causes by 2020. That’s just to name a few, here’s a link to their responsibility page that covers more: http://www.j-sainsbury.co.uk/responsibility/our-commitments/
The full ranking of the 100 companies is at the bottom.
The global sustainability index is hoping to expand to include 1,000 companies. This report still has refining to do, as last month Volkswagen, ranked fourth in the report, pled guilty to criminal conspiracy for cheating on US diesel emissions tests. Some companies also don’t report their sustainability development on their Annual Report which analysts argue is a problem because an Annual Report is legally binding whereas separate sustainability reports can often include a lot of greenwashing.
John Liu, a professor at Columbia University in the states wonders which US company is going to be the first to step up and be a leader for the United States in their sustainability development goals. He states that “reports and studies show that companies who pay attention to [environmental, social, and governance benchmarks] generally have a better track record of long-term growth.” And a report in The Accounting Review found that “firms with good ratings on material sustainability issues significantly outperform firms with poor ratings on these issues.”