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SDG Challenge: the choice for a contribution to a better world

Dutch companies recognise the importance of Sustainable Development Goals, but still struggle with their ambition

SDG Challenge 2019

No less than 93 percent of the Dutch companies we surveyed in the SDG Challenge selected specific SDGs. Only a third of Dutch companies also selected underlying SDG sub-targets. But while awareness of Sustainable Development Goals is high, companies seem to find it difficult to define their concrete ambitions.

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Low priority for gender equality (SDG 5) in the Netherlands

The SDG Challenge 2019 is a global PwC survey of 1,141 (predominantly listed) companies. For the Netherlands, we looked at the annual and sustainability reports over 2018 of forty companies, most of which are listed on the Dutch stock exchange. Among other things, it emerged that one in four companies gives priority to gender equality (SDG 5).

"Gender equality is, after all, a topic that is high on the agenda of Dutch companies", says PwC. "Discussions on equal opportunities between men and women, the pay gap and the discussion around a female quota, all illustrate the societal focus on this topic. However, our research shows that in the Netherlands SDG 5 is hardly ever selected as a priority. In order to make progress, we need to be more ambitious. In the Netherlands we are not yet at the forefront when it comes to gender equality."

The next ten years are all about delivering the SDGs

The next ten years will be marked by the 'delivery' of the SDGs, the seventeen global objectives set by the UN in 2015 to achieve a peaceful, sustainable and just society. In our survey, we examined whether companies not only mention SDGs in their annual report, but whether they also choose a clear focus. Do these companies also align their strategy with the selected SDGs, have they defined clear ambitions and do they also report on these?

Below more information on the most important findings for the Netherlands below.

93% of the companies surveyed in the Netherlands have chosen specific SDGs

Dutch companies recognise the importance of the SDGs and make conscious choices in doing so. On average, they select five to six SDGs. "Prioritising is a good thing", says PwC. "A company cannot focus on all seventeen objectives at the same time. You have to choose the SDGs that are aligned with your company and on which you can make the most impact."

Of the companies that have chosen SDGs, only a third have also selected concrete SDG targets. Of this group, more than thirty have not set themselves an ambition yet (either in terms of quality or quantity).

Only one in four companies has selected SDG 5 (gender equality).

Despite the debate on gender equality and equal opportunities for men and women, few companies take this into account in their SDG choice. Of the Dutch companies surveyed, only a quarter do so. Of these, one third (about five percent of the total) links this to a quantitative ambition.

According to PwC, it could be better: "The ratio between men and women is relatively easy to measure, but companies are struggling to set clear, ambitious goals. And it is precisely those that are desperately needed to create equality."

Decent work and economic growth, responsible consumption and production and climate action are most frequently chosen by companies.

The most frequently chosen SDGs - decent work and economic growth (8), responsible consumption and production (12) and climate action (13) - are also high on the business agenda.

The SDGs that can be found the least are poverty reduction (1), life below water (14) and peace and security (16). This result is comparable to previous years for the Netherlands as well as the results of the global research.

More companies in the energy sector and the manufacturing industry are opting for SDGs than in other sectors.

Based on the companies in our survey, the percentage of companies that choose SDG targets in the Netherlands (thirty percent) is higher than the global average (fourteen percent). The financial sector is lagging behind, compared to both Dutch and global results. In addition, companies in the energy sector and the manufacturing industry are doing better than the average results worldwide and in the Netherlands when selecting SDG targets.

Contact us

Wineke Haagsma

Wineke Haagsma

Head of Corporate Sustainability, PwC Netherlands

Tel: +31 (0)65 170 13 44

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