This research project is part of the chair in sustainable transformation.
Since their launch in 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are becoming more widely known. But what about their adoption in Belgian companies and organizations?
This very first research in Belgium is the starting point of a scientifically-based analysis, which constitutes the basis for recommendations, aimed at private as well as public organizations. At the same time, organizations can make a benchmark and look at how their sector scores compared to other relevant sectors.
In a nutshell
- 63% of Belgian organizations implement the SDGs.
- Room for improvement: 24% know what the SDGs are, but don’t have concrete knowledge or action plans.
- 35% of Belgian organizations that do not work with SDGs now, only want to go for quick wins (ex. reusable batteries) in the future.
- 80% focus on a few SDGs, not on all 17. ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘Life below Water’ = least chosen SDGs.
- Internal stakeholders = biggest barrier for implementation of SDGs.
Belgian organizations score well
63% of the respondents know what the Sustainable Development Goals are and incorporate them into their policies or their sustainability strategy. With this percentage, Belgium scores well at an international level: studies (Globescan 2016) have shown that at an international level, 66% of the organizations currently do not use the SDGs. However, there is room for improvement: 24% of the respondents have heard of the notion ‘Sustainable Development Goals’ but do not know what it actually implies or currently do not have any concrete action plans to incorporate them into their policies. 90% do indicate that they will focus (more) on it in the future. 83% of the respondents who already use the SDGs have appointed someone within their organization to be in charge of the SDGs, which shows the long-term vision of Belgian organizations.
Internal stakeholders are the biggest barrier.
Global challenges (ex. climate, poverty, etc.) are the most important motivator (85%) for Belgian organizations to implement the SDGs, followed by the threat of depletion of natural resources (81%). Other important factors are reputation, market opportunities and an operating license. It is notable that Belgian organizations believe that internal stakeholders (employees, directors, investors, etc.) are the most important barrier to adopting the SDGs, before other barriers such as the lack of financial means and the perception that the SDGs do not bring any advantage to the organization.
‘Zero Hunger’ least chosen Sustainable Development Goal
“The research shows that no less than 80% of the respondents focus on a few SDGs and not on all 17 SDGs established by the United Nations. Our Belgian organizations choose to implement SDGs that are feasible and present an added value for their organization in the long term. The least chosen SDGs are ‘Zero Hunger’, ‘Life Below Water’ and ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’. This is not unlogical: they are harder to translate into concrete objectives, or organizations consider them to be a task that is in the realm of the government. Nevertheless, the study emphasizes that it is important to consider all SDGs: According to the guidelines in the UN Agenda 2030, the SDG ‘Zero Hunger’ is crucial to realize all other SDGs,” says Prof. Luc Van Liedekerke of the University of Antwerp.
A total of 641 organizations from a variety of sectors responded to the SDG Barometer questionnaire. The SDG Barometer questionnaire was composed of different sections, one of which was an ‘exit route’ at the start of the questionnaire based on the organization’s attention to sustainability. This lead to one third of the respondents taking this ‘exit route’, which means that the starting point of the SDG Barometer was 409 respondents.
Of these 409 respondents, 13% were not aware of the SDGs. The remaining respondents were included in the actual SDG Barometer.
For the interpretation of the results of the SDG Barometer we have to consider the fact that the answers to the different questions lead to subsets of the complete set of respondents and that the results are not considered statistically representative. However, it is assumed that the results of the SDG Barometer as presented in this report reflect the actual patterns present in organizations today.
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