Monday, November 28

Globalization, a double-edged sword to achieve sustainability plans

From left to right: Ferran Curtó, co-author of the report, Àngel Castiñeira, director of the ESADE Chair in LeadershipS and Sustainability and co-author of the report, and Anna Mª González, co-author of the report. / The Caixa

Companies are increasingly aware of the SDGs


The V Report «The Contribution of Spanish companies to the Sustainable Development Goals. The tensions in the transition towards sustainability”, prepared by the ESADE Chair in LeadershipS and Sustainability in collaboration with the Social Observatory of the ‘La Caixa’ Foundation, highlights how globalization is a double-edged sword when it comes to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

One of the first conclusions of the study is that there is an increasing awareness of the incorporation of the 2030 agenda since it was approved in 2015, especially among large companies. The report analyzes whether the 101 listed companies (both based in Spain that participate in the stock market and Spanish companies that are listed in other markets) present non-financial reports on their sustainability plans and actions. The percentage of organizations that report non-financial information has increased 14% in just one year, from 72% to 86%.

Since the first edition, this number has not stopped growing, although Anna Mª González, project director of the ESADE LeadershipS and Sustainability Chair and co-author of the study, acknowledges that in the field of SMEs this level of awareness “is much lower” although “there is a stage of growing maturity“.

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Awareness and obstacles

This same person in charge ensures that the non-financial reports presented have “a very high level of ambition”. The SDGs that companies highlight most in their reports are SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), mentioned by 70% of companies, and 13 (Climate action) by 66%, followed by SDG 9 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 12 (Responsible production and consumption) and SDG 17 (Partnerships to achieve the goals), mentioned by 6 out of 10 companies. On the other hand, objectives 2 (Zero Hunger) and 14 (Life below water) continue to be postponed, as they are mentioned by less than 20% of the companies.

As explained by the co-author of the study, companies carry out a materiality analysis on these SDGs, which “allows them to highlight which are the most relevant issues for them and in which companies can have a greater impact capacity”.

Therefore, “issues closely linked to technical aspects of companies and that affect their business model” are chosen, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the challenge lies in companies being able to assess “what their impact is on all stakeholders; that is, incorporate suppliers, local communities, public administrations or academic institutions to transfer these positive impacts« to the various agents. On the other hand, and given globalization, external situations such as pandemics or wars shake the achievement of these same objectives. Thus, the war against Ukraine and the escalation of energy prices are “without a doubt difficulties when envisioning an ecological transition”. “If the consequences of COVID and the restriction of movement continue to cause bottlenecks in supply chains, we will be in a perspective where we will continue to have no access to some products. If the policies to reinforce national sovereignty (such as China) mean not allowing the export of some strategic resources of raw materials, this will also have an impact on these materials”, contextualizes the researcher.

Therefore, it can be said that the achievement of these sustainability plans is something that is intrinsically linked to globalization as we know it. “We are facing a scenario in which strategies will undoubtedly have to be drafted,” explains Anna Mª González.

Sustainability is not secondary

Although the study recognizes that the post-pandemic socioeconomic context and the unstable environment caused by the war in Ukraine introduce new risks to the ability to reorient current development models and respond to the climate and environmental crisis, inequality and definitive overcoming of the pandemic, its authors assure that all the companies interviewed have a “committed vision of sustainability” and that this “is not conceived as an option” or a secondary plan.

They don’t have that dilemma. They know that they will be sustainable or they will not be and that the viability of their business has to adapt to all these changes”, says Anna Mª González. For this reason, the authors of the report affirm, more and more companies transfer aspects related to sustainability as financial risks.

At this point, it should be noted that there are sectors that are more advanced than others. Thus, the companies that are in the oil and gas sector have been more advanced. Thus, for example, the study highlights that two out of three companies integrate the circular economy in their reports. Specifically, it occurs in all companies in the energy market, followed by technology (86%), industry and construction (80%), consumer goods companies (43%) and consumer services (36%). ).

Regarding the group of people, the percentage of companies that communicate about gender equality policies decreases moderately. In 2021, 43% of companies report in a general way and only 4% do so in detail (in both cases, 2 points below 2020). It also worsens the report on discrimination in salary compensation. In 2021, 39% of companies mention this type of policy, 10 points less than in 2020. Instead, they have increased the report on conciliation policies from 16% to 25%. Something similar happens with the protocols against labor abuse, whose report has risen two thirds compared to the previous year.

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