The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and the EY organisation have published a new report bringing together opinions from 13 consumer industry leaders that outlines what it calls “the urgent priorities” the sector must act upon to help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 deadline.
At the halfway point to the 2030 deadline (from the SDGs being set in 2015), the CEOs says they are “optimistic” that faster progress can be achieved through five actions to accelerate impact.
The five priority areas identified to help CGF members and other businesses across the industry to accelerate progress are:
- Partner for success – Profitability and revenue competition are part of a healthy economy but solving sustainability’s systemic challenges requires collaboration. Only by pulling together can consumer businesses rise to the scale of the challenges ahead – from combating climate change to reducing global inequality.
- Measure for progress and impact – Businesses can’t manage what they don’t measure – and there is a clear need to integrate the SDGs with other frameworks and for consistent international or regional standards. The growing number of frameworks makes this difficult – yet convening bodies such as CGF have the power to consult and advocate for consistent standards.
- Embed sustainability into your company DNA – Companies that embed the SDGs into their working culture – potentially through rewards and incentives –are far more likely to achieve them.
- Bring the consumer on the journey – Consumer companies occupy a privileged position that confers great power, and great responsibility, in shaping consumption. They can incentivize better consumer behavior and raise awareness of the SDGs in ways that other stakeholders cannot. Consumers are rewarding those businesses who do the right things to improve the health of communities. If businesses fail to act on urgent environmental and social issues, they will get left behind.
- All SDGs should be supported but prioritise the areas where you have the power to make the biggest difference – Whether it is malnutrition, sanitation or waste, certain companies can make a greater contribution to some SDGs than others, depending on their experience and sphere of influence. Setting material targets will help companies to make a tangible difference in the areas most appropriate to them.
The report, developed in collaboration with EY teams and launched just ahead of CGF’s annual Global Summit taking place in Dublin from 20-23 June, features interviews with leaders from 13 of the largest global consumer goods companies: Ahold Delhaize; Alibaba Group; Ajinomoto Group; A.S. Watson Group; The Coca-Cola Company; DFI Retail Group; Grupo Éxito; Kerry Group; Kirin Holdings; Musgrave Group; Procter & Gamble; Unilever; and Woolworths Holdings.
The report also highlighted that numerous companies see their activities as accelerating and are shifting mindsets from previous sustainability goals seen as a “nice to have” to now viewing them as being integral to success.
This reflects the rising prioritisation of climate change among consumers, it says, along with biodiversity outlined as top priorities in the EY Future Consumer Index. Technology also enables this by making sustainable measurement and progress more viable and affordable. In turn, it says this can accelerate the progress companies make toward the SDGs and support new frameworks and metrics that can track and improve impact.
Great strides have been made in accelerating positive action, but we must all challenge ourselves to go much further if we are to deliver on the SDGs by 2030.
Wai-Chan Chan, Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum, says: “As we race toward the 2030 deadline for the SDGs, time is short. But we can and must build a more resilient world in which no one is left behind. The consumer goods industry is vital to achieving the SDGs, and collaboration to help ensure this has never been more critical.
“Our new report underlines the importance of corporate collectivity. Businesses have an unprecedented responsibility: society’s urgent global problems cannot be solved by government, business, non-profits or citizens alone. Great strides have been made in accelerating positive action, but we must all challenge ourselves to go much further if we are to deliver on the SDGs by 2030. With an ethos of collaboration, we can share knowledge and combine resources to innovate and adapt.”