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SDG awareness in Belgium continues to rise

October 29, 2020

SDG awareness in Belgium continues to rise

  • Nearly all organizations (98%) pay at least some attention to sustainability. Compared with the SDG Barometer 2018, a considerably smaller percentage of organizations now appears unaware of the SDGs (9%).
  • The most important driving forces for adopting SDGs appear to be complying with societal expectations, reducing social and environmental risks, and showing respect for the communities in which organizations operate.
  • Different types of organizations perceive different SDGs as important. Companies perceive SDG 8 (Decent work and economic growth), SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), and SDG 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure) as the most relevant. Both companies and governments deem SDG 2 (Zero hunger) the least relevant SDG. SDG 14 (Life below water) is at the bottom for all types of organizations when it comes to relevance.

Antwerp Management School, Louvain School of Management and the University of Antwerp have published a follow-up study of the SDG Barometer 2018. This new 2020 SDG Barometer report outlines the sustainability landscape at a national level with insights about organizations’ engagement with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This research was supported by the Federal Institute for Sustainable Development (FIDO).

“Just five years ago, the SDGs were still, for many, a topic of discussion rather than a strategic element in the management of a company or organization. This barometer, to which many Belgian companies and organizations have contributed, clearly shows that the goals have been extensively taken on board in the business community. Not only that, they are entrenched in the way these entities operate. In five years, all organizations, regardless of their size, shape or status, have made the SDGs their ‘business’,” explains Zakia Khattabi, Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and the Green Deal, in the foreword of the report.

“The SDG Barometer 2020 presents a follow-up to the SDG Barometer 2018 and the Belgian Corporate Responsibility (CR) Barometer studies that were held in 2011 and 2015. These previous studies serve as a reference point for comparison over time for understanding the roles, responsibilities, and actions of Belgian organizations in the field of sustainability,”
says Prof. Luc Van Liedekerke of the University of Antwerp.

After 5 years, Belgian organizations are searching for strategic alignment with the SDGs

Many organizations have taken concrete steps to integrate the SDGs into their strategies (25%) and have aligned the SDGs with their own organizational context (22%). Organizations mainly perceive the SDGs as a source of information for their sustainability strategy (31%) and as complementary to their existing strategy (19%). Only 10% of the responding organizations are not planning to integrate the SDGs into their strategy.

An important result is that the majority of organizations (70%) tends to prioritize a selection of the SDGs rather than focusing on the entire set or prioritizing one SDG. These findings are in line with the SDG Barometer 2018 and reflect the pattern of organizations narrowing down their choice to a subset of SDGs that, in their view, contains the most relevant topics for their operations.

“With the broad scope inherent to the sustainability agenda, such prioritization is common practice when organizations engage in sustainability. It should be noted, however, that this practice is not consistent with the approach of ‘indivisibility’ that the United Nations take toward the SDGs. A new avenue for research can be to investigate why organizations resist embracing all SDGs and how to encourage them to do so,” Prof. Valérie Swaen of Louvain School of Management explains.

Importance to track progress on the SDGs

“In order to track progress on Agenda 2030, it is important that organizations monitor their SDG actions and impacts,” says Jan Beyne of the Sustainable Transformation Lab at Antwerp Management School. The results of the SDG Barometer show that 50% of the responding organizations do not use indicators to monitor progress on the SDGs. Some 15% of the organizations use indicators to track their progress, but not those proposed within the SDG framework. A total of 29% indicate that they are using at least several of the SDG indicators to monitor their SDG initiatives. Of this group, just a little over 7% appear to perform an extensive measurement based on the SDGs.

“Related to the low percentage of organizations that perform impact measurements based on the SDGs, it is recommended to pay more attention to the need for, the advantages of, and possible approaches toward SDG impact measurement,”
Jan Beyne claims.

Effect of COVID-19 on SDGs

While, as we speak, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, it is clear that its effects will reverberate for times to come. The research findings highlight that the SDGs are seen as more important than ever, although organizations expect a delayed realization of the 2030 Agenda.

“Future research may focus on how the pandemic, in general, changes the sustainability commitments of organizations and how this affects their SDG engagement. More specifically, it is important to get insight into the extent to which organizations will shift their focus and if their focus aligns with what is needed according to the SDG agenda, how their investments in sustainability initiatives will change, and whether or not they will take new approaches to tackling the SDGs,” Prof. Lars Moratis of Antwerp Management School explains.


Read the full report here.

More information: Jan Beyne, jan.beyne@ams.ac.be

Boogkeers campus AMS management school

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