The 15th of July, UNCTAD-ISAR held a parallel event to the High Level Political Forum in New York.

Programme and presentations

The event was organized together with the Government of Guatemala and Statistics Denmark. It also counted with the support of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Academy of Financial Management of Ukraine and Novo Nordisk A/S. The event was attended by over 100 participants and it featured speakers from the public and private sectors, the Statistics Division and the Financing for Sustainable Development Office (FfSDO) of UNDESA, as well as key international organizations in the area of sustainability reporting including UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

The discussions focused on the means to facilitate harmonization and comparability of companies reporting on their contribution to the SDGs’ implementation, key challenges, lessons learned and available tools. UNCTAD provided a summary of its work in this area including the development of its Guidance on core indicators for entity reporting on contribution towards implementation of the SDGs (GCI), which contains a limited number of core indicators common to all companies regardless of their size or sector, including SMEs and that is intended as a entry point to promote SDG reporting. UNCTAD also mentioned the ongoing preparation of country case studies on the practical applicability of the GCI that will be discussed at the 36th session of the Intergovernmental Working Group of Expert on International Standards of Accounting and Reporting (ISAR) at the end of October in Geneva.

The governments of Guatemala, Colombia and South Africa highlighted the necessity of practical tools to measure in a consistent and comparable way the contribution of the private sector to the implementation of the SDGs. They recognized the work done by UNCTAD in this regard through the development of the GCI and also through the implementation of the Development Account Project titled Enabling Policy Frameworks for enterprise sustainability and entity reporting in Africa and Latin America. In particular, the government of Guatemala stressed the need to supplement official sources to be able to report on indicator 12.6.1 on number of companies producing sustainability reports and in this regard, it said that one of the lessons learned is the need to strengthen the culture of keeping records, documenting and measuring and highlighted the exercise that UNCTAD has been conducting to find functional and effective ways to record the information of the business sector. Moreover, the government of South Africa mentioned that a living SDGs corporate culture is needed to guarantee the participation of affected and interested stakeholders, who will provide context to issues in business value chains, consumer markets and communities, for authenticity in SDGs reporting. In addition, the government of Colombia stated that the public and private sectors need to speak the same language and in order to bridge the gap it is necessary to develop tools. Furthermore, Colombia commended the progress on the implementation of the Development Account Project which is being co-led by UNCTAD and the Department of National Planning in Colombia.

Experts in statistics from UNDESA and Denmark stressed the importance of having reliable data on the contribution of the private sector to the SDGs. They spoke of the need to measure this contribution in a consistent and comparable manner that allows to track progress over time. NovoNordisk mentioned a case study on the practical use of the GCI and said that it had been able to disclose most of the indicators. The Academy of Financial Management of Ukraine also presented findings and lessons learned on the preparation of a GCI case study; the speaker emphasized the need for coordination of indicators at the macro and micro levels in order to ensure consistency and comparability in the measurement of individual company indicators.

The private sector mentioned efforts in the area of sustainability and SDG reporting. Aviva investors stressed the need to have reliable and consistent data in order to take adequate investment decisions. Some speakers and participants also underscored the need to support companies and in particular Small and Medium-Sized enterprises to be able to measure the use of key resources and report on sustainability. It was highlighted that SMEs account for the majority of companies in developing countries and require capacity building. CentraRSE from Guatemala highlighted its partnership with the Government as a key milestone. Global AI spoke of the possibility to use data tools and the GCI to collect in an automatic way data on companies’ reporting. The Brazilian Development Bank shared lessons learned in their process of producing integrated reports in Brazil. Vanderbilt Financial Group mentioned the role of entrepreneurs in promoting sustainable development.

Finally, UNGC, WBCSD, GRI, SASB presented their initiatives to support the private sector in their efforts to produce sustainability and SDG reports and the FfSDO highlighted the importance of this topic and its link to the Financing for Sustainable Development Report and to promoting responsible investment.