SDGs Research

Business Contributions to the SDGs – A Student Assessment 

“The need to gather data on SDG impact is clear. With over 8,000 companies of all sizes around the world, and the largest repository of data on corporate implementation of sustainability principles and practices, the UN Global Compact is in a good position to harvest SDG data. We are committed to helping measure private sector contribution to the SDGs for next year’s High Level Political Forum.”[1]

– Lise Kingo, CEO and Executive Director, United Nations Global Compact

With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the private sector is expected to play an essential role in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Business and finance are the change agents that will spur innovation, unleash investments and power sustainable growth across the planet to achieve this vision. Thus, it is of high relevance to track and assess these contributions towards 2030.

In order to address this challenge and engage the next generation of business leaders, the PRME Secretariat and WikiRate have identified an opportunity to empower students to support and advance the SDGs by proactively identifying, aggregating, analysing, and sharing the achievements of companies in support of the SDGs as reported in the COPs. The WikiRate Project provides a platform to spur corporations to be transparent and responsive by making data about their social and environmental impacts useful and available.

In its first year, the pilot engaged over 1300 students at 11 higher education institutions 9 countries, and generated over 20,000 data points on corporate sustainability performance, with the aims to:

  • Embed the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the minds of the next generation of business leaders through active research and analysis, promoting engagement and familiarity with companies’ reporting outputs,
  • Offer students the opportunity to analyse and evaluate the quality of company activities as they relate to responsible and sustainable business operations, and highlight the most notable achievements of companies in each major industry,
  • Seek structured ways of tracking company performance towards the SDGs and the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles, testing a broad selection of metrics of performance from standards like the Global Reporting Initiative and UN Global Compact’s Poverty Footprint,
  • Support the UN Global Compact’s efforts to analyse and assess business contributions to the SDGs.

Outcomes were presented to member states during the UN’s High-Level Political Forum to showcase company progress towards achieving the SDGs (see Full report on pilot phase[2]).

To reach 10,000 students in classrooms over the next three years, the project seeks funding from 2018 onwards from corporations, foundations and governments, and will look to further scale through module into an online course accessible to students in and outside of higher education.

This project is a partnership between WikiRate, the Principles for Responsible Management Education, the UN Global Compact and the Bertelsmann Stiftung.



University Sustainability Performance

While much research on WikiRate focuses on the sustainability performance of companies, and analysis of that data, the same approach can be used to understand and compare university sustainability performance and impact.

There are many frameworks for this, and some which are heavily adopted by universities across certain regions. A pilot project using Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) and The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS) metrics was run in early 2017 with professors and students at the University of Michigan in the United States and University of Worcester in the United Kingdom. In the initial stage, metrics were mapped to the SDGs to provide a framework for universities to start to understand how metrics link to specific SDGs with the hope that it will enable universities to connect business strategies and teaching with global priorities.

As we look to expand the project, we are also interested in seeing how the metrics are used and applied to universities of different sizes and geographic contexts.

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Theresa Heithaus

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