CSR Asia is delighted to announce the launch its latest report “The Sustainable Development Goals and ASEAN 2025: A Guide for Business”. To share the report’s findings, we are hosting a webinar [Click here to register] tomorrow, 24th May at 4 pm HKT. This practical guide for companies maps out the major talking points of the Political-Security Community, the Economic Community and the Socio-Cultural Community Blueprints of the ASEAN 2025 Vision and aligns them with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while also highlighting Key Elements and Strategic Measures that are specific to the ASEAN region, which do not necessarily reference the SDGs.
Both the ASEAN 2025 Vision and the SDGs offer guidance for ASEAN’s private sector to design and implement more strategic and focused sustainability efforts that address clear needs and leverage their business resources. Before companies start to align their approaches to ASEAN 2025 Vision and the SDGs, it is worthwhile to first assess the progress and forecasts of where ASEAN countries stand in meeting the SDGs.
ASEAN’s SDG Gaps
A number of international organisations release baseline and progress reports on countries and regions’ performance in SDG on a regular basis. The ASEAN SDGs Baseline Report released by UNESCAP in late 2017 pointed out, ASEAN in general has made great progress in four goals areas between 2000 and 2015, namely poverty eradication (SDG 1); quality education (SDG 4); affordable and clean energy (SDG 7); and life below water (SDG 14). On the other hand, situation deteriorated for several goal areas including food security and zero hunger (SDG 2); decent work and equitable economic growth (SDG 8); reduced inequality within and between countries (SDG 10); sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11); and life on land (SDG 15). The diagram below shows ASEAN’s progress in key target areas under each goals.
Figure 1: Gaps of ASEAN in achieving the SDGs1
From another perspective, the SDGs Index 2017 Report shows countries’ performance against SDG target indicators. As shown in the diagram below, a green rating on the SDG Dashboard denotes SDG achievement, and is assigned to a country on a given SDG only if all the indicators under the goal are rated green. Yellow, orange and red indicate increasing distance from SDG achievement. This gives companies a better understanding of SDG Gaps in markets that they operate in.
Figure 2: SDG Index & Dashboards Report 20172- Asia Dashboard, excluding OECD countries
“Divide and conquer”
As a previous CSR Asia article suggests, the gaps in meeting the SDGs actually present numerous opportunities for the private sector because helping the community and nations with meeting the SDGs is also good for business. It has been encouraging to see many companies in the past two years start aligning their sustainability strategies with the SDGs, and even more identifying focus areas on which to target their alignment. For instance, Singapore’s largest bank DBS decided to focus on four SDGs where they believe they can make the most impactful contribution, taking in account the markets they currently serve, their businesses and their four sustainability pillars. Similarly, in its 2017 Sustainability Report, Shell also reported their priorities in addressing the SDGs and how they map their sustainability work against their main business operations and the SDGs.
Figure 3: Shell’s Priorities in SDGs in Shell’s Sustainability Report 2017
We have the priorities. What next?
If your company has already identified priority SDG areas relevant to your business, looking at the needs in the region(s) and countries you operate in is an important next step. The ASEAN 2025 Vision framework is a fitting reference for those who have businesses or a major supply chain in Southeast Asia. Strategies that align with the ASEAN 2025 Vision would allow easier engagement with governments and international organisations. Given that repeated emphasis in the ASEAN 2025 Vision is placed on advocating for a people-oriented ASEAN and on inclusiveness, topics such as human rights, building sustainable cities and mitigating climate change risks are important themes that companies should consider when they develop their sustainability practices.
Another area for improvement is for private sector reports on progresses to be shared more regularly and in a comparable manner. Currently, most companies either follow the reporting mechanism of Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines (i.e. GRI Standards, or its previous version GRI G4 Reporting Guidelines) or the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Reporting Guidelines of their local stock exchanges, if not both. They may want to take note that GRI has released the SDG Compass that links SDG targets with the GRI Standards, Sector Disclosures and indicators. One should note that the Compass is not only useful for retrospective reporting, but more so for program and strategy design because the linkages made to specific sector indicators could often provide specific insight on what companies can do in coming years. For instance, the following diagram from the SDG Compass shows what companies can report on according to GRI Standards or G4 Guidelines if they try to tackle SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities, one of the most pressing SDGs in ASEAN, the Compass shows what companies from financial, construction and real estate as well as the media industry could report/work on.
Figure 4: SDG 10 in the SDG Compass developed by GRI
To sum up, the SDGs, ASEAN 2025 and other reporting guidelines would provide great insights into companies’ focus and approach to sustainability. Tracking your progress on addressing the SDGs and the ASEAN 2025 blueprint in your ESG or sustainability report allow stakeholders to better understand the linkages between an organization’s main business operations and its progress in supporting the development of the regions and markets. Join our FREE webinar tomorrow to learn more about the linkages, some best practices from companies and what CSR Asia can do for your company.
Linking ASEAN 2025 and the SDGs: A Business Perspective
May 24, 2018
4:00pm - 5:00pm Hong Kong Time (UTC+8 hours)
Click here to register