Stockholm (NordSIP) – The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), a new project created to rank the world’s largest companies on the UN SDGs comprised of UK multinational insurance company Aviva, the Index Initiative, the United Nations Foundation, and the Business and Sustainable Development Commission, is to launch its consultation phase, it was announced last Thursday (September 21) at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
The global multi-stakeholder initiative will develop and publish free-to-access, publicly available benchmarks ranking the most powerful companies in the world on their sustainability performance and contributions towards achieving the SDGs, Aviva announced in a press release. In the course of the consultation phase, the aforementioned WBA founding partners will explore opportunities and the potential for using the benchmarks to “measure, motivate and reward business action on the SDGs.”
“Our idea is simple,” Aviva CEO Mark Wilson told the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York “We turn the SDGs into a corporate competitive sport. We draw up transparent data on performance towards meeting the SDGs, and we rank companies according to how well they are doing. This will motivate a race to the top and is what the proposed World Benchmarking Alliance is all about.”
Wilson in 2015 called for the UN to help change the rules of the international finance system to become more sustainable and for businesses to do their part in contributing to the bringing to fruition of the SDGs. The concept and creation of corporate Global Goal benchmarks was supported by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) in a landmark report, “Better Business, Better World” earlier this year outlining a $12 trillion economic opportunity for businesses pursuing sustainable and inclusive business models, including the creation of 380 million (!) jobs by 2030.
“What we are building is a lens that allows end-investors, and civil society beyond, to focus in on an issue in a sector and see who is good and who is not,” added Aviva Investors Chief Responsible Investment Officer Steve Waygood, who explained that giving investors free access to its league tables will increase pressure on companies to step up sustainability efforts. “It will create a race to the top. A chief executive who does well will shout about it.”
In addition to the UN foundation agreeing to be the fiduciary for the WBA, the Danish, Dutch and UK governments have already committed funding to the consultation phase, complementing that already provided by Aviva. “We need more businesses of all sizes and investors to embrace the UN SDGs,” said Ulla Tørnæs, the Danish Minister for Development Cooperation. “Benchmarks can translate the SDGs into a business and innovation agenda, creating clarity on the unique role and abilities of companies to contribute to sustainable development in developing countries. Clarity on the role of business will equally demonstrate where we as governments must step up.”
Mr Waygood estimates the first 12 months of setting up the project will cost around $2.7 million. The WBA will consult with global investors and companies to determine the methodology for its annual ranking.
“Business today faces a simple choice: embrace sustainable development or risk getting left behind. Benchmarks create a common mechanism for companies to accelerate their sustainability performance and – more importantly – they change the status quo by enabling business, government and civil society to hold each other accountable in creating a world that is good for business, people and the planet,” said Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the UN Foundation.
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