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India’s top companies and the SDGs

Corporates and Sustainable Development Goals
Since the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have to be implemented by 2030, it requires immense effort not only from the government but also from businesses. The Indian Government is already using SDGs as a roadmap for formulating national policies and regulations. It is incumbent upon corporations to complement these actions.
Reporting of SDGs is a three-step process:
  1. develop priority SDG targets;
  2. measure and analyse; and,
  3. report, integrate and implement change.
The reporting of SDGs in India is in its nascent stage and often companies are linking their existing programmes to SDGs. This may detract them from making the best use of the SDG programme. Companies don’t seem to make specific efforts in developing new programs to address the most relevant goal for their business. Companies are using the same process that they used to develop materiality matrix for developing their plan to incorporate SDGs into their business.
A study of 218 companies by IIM Udaipur and Futurescape indicates that the companies are gradually incorporating SDGs into their responsible business actions. Around 35% companies at the aggregate level reported that they map their goals with SDGs, but only 30% shared their mapping.
Of the 218 companies, 60 companies have mapped their responsible business actions to SDGs. Nine of the top 10 companies mapped their goals with SDGs. The leading sectors are IT, Telecom and Energy where majority companies have mapped. The laggards are Financials and Other Industrials.
On average, companies map 11 SDGs with a low of 1 to a maximum of 17. Of the companies that mapped their SDG goals, a whopping 51 (85%) were in the private sector and 53 (71%) were manufacturing companies. This clearly establishes that private companies are leading in the focus on SDG implementation.
In terms of focus, the SDG 4 (quality education), SDG 8 (decent work), SDG 5 (gender equality), SDG 13 (climate action), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) occupy the top position. On the other hand, SDG 16 (peace, justice etc.) and SDG 14 (life below water) were mapped by less than 45% companies.
In terms of implementation, if a group looks at SDGs as a guiding light, then it becomes easier for member-companies to adopt SDGs. We observe this at the Tata Group. Dr Mukund Rajan, Chairman of the Tata Global Sustainability Council says in the report ‘Responsible Business Rankings’, “The SDG roadmap will help guide, shape, implement, monitor and report company-wide initiatives, providing the business case for staying invested in sustainable development for the long term.”
Existing programs too can be linked to SDGs. Ambuja Cement maps its water actions to SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities) and SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production).
The company constructs water harvesting structures in Kodinar, Gujarat which is a drought-prone area with a major issue of water salinity. It constructed the first check dam (in 1993) in Kodinar. Water-harvesting and groundwater recharging structures were set up to improve water availability to farmers in the area.
As a part of this initiative, Ambuja engaged extensively in awareness creation on water-efficient agriculture through micro-irrigation (12,042 acres) using sprinkler and drip irrigation. The project has had a significant impact in the region resulting in the reduction of water scarcity, helping the community and farmers, in particular, to carry out agriculture.
Some companies link their SDGs to their branding efforts. For instance, GAIL maps its Hawa Badlo (change the air) programme to SDGs 7, 11 and 15. GAIL supports the Hawa Badlo initiative which aims to motivate people to commit towards air-friendly habits like switching to CNG/electric vehicles, carpooling, and use of public transport.
Apart from being a corporate campaign, it is also a step towards inclusive action by creating awareness drive to inculcate behavioural changes in the citizens so as to replicate the same on a larger level and hence, bring a significant alteration to the air quality index. The Hawa Badlo campaign resulted in creating awareness amongst large masses across the nation.
The SDGs have the potential to provide a framework for mobilizing companies to invest in sustainable development in an ongoing and scalable way, while also pursuing their own business interests.