World Benchmarking Alliance launches to help business measure progress against the UN Sustainable Development Goals

New York, NY

September 24, 2018


Megan Rabbitt

Today, Aviva, Index Initiative, and the United Nations Foundation announce the launch of the World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA), with the aim of helping businesses do more to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The WBA, launched in New York today on the eve of the General Debate of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, will develop free, publicly available benchmarks which will rank companies on their contributions to achieving the SDGs.

At a time of increasing focus on the role of the private sector in helping to drive greater levels of sustainability, equality, and prosperity in society, the WBA will increase transparency and accountability for businesses in relation to the SDGs. It aims to empower consumers, investors, governments, and civil society organizations by providing them with free and publicly available data that shows a company’s SDG performance, which they can use when deciding where to spend their money, allocate their investments, or direct their policy and advocacy efforts.

The WBA will develop a range of corporate benchmarks by 2023 to comprehensively assess the progress of 2,000 companies across major areas of transformation required to achieve the SDGs. The first set of benchmarks will be published in 2020 and will address food and agriculture, climate and energy, digital inclusion, and gender equality and empowerment.

The benchmarks will be designed to clarify what society expects from business with regards to the SDGs, and how best these companies can contribute to meeting these expectations. The WBA also believes this initiative will help to promote competition among businesses in their race to deliver against the SDGs. By assigning a value to social good, the WBA will help to create a market that rewards corporate leadership while challenging those that lag behind.

Gerbrand Haverkamp, Executive Director of the World Benchmarking Alliance, added: “With only 12 years left to deliver against the SDGs, governments, businesses, civil society, and individuals alike must make a concerted effort to achieve progress. This new and unique approach will measure and incentivize businesses to continue driving efforts towards a more sustainable future. The real value of benchmarks is that they will empower society to make decisions that are in line with societal values, which will ultimately create demand for corporate responsibility.”

Adopted in 2015 by 193 countries, the SDGs are a collection of 17 interconnected goals negotiated by UN member states. Developed in consultation with business and civil society, the SDGs outline a global framework to ensure a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030, and address the world’s most pressing challenges, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, prosperity, and justice.

Mark Wilson, Group Chief Executive of Aviva, said: “We need to harness the power of economics to do what’s best for society and the planet. Benchmarks will be the ‘floodlights of sustainability’, shining a powerful light on how far companies and regulators are meeting their responsibilities. They allow consumers and investors to make informed choices based on sustainability performance. League tables will inject a healthy dose of competition to encourage both businesses and regulators to do better at thinking and acting for the long-term.”

Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation said: “The World Benchmarking Alliance is an important initiative that will help to unleash the power of business to drive progress and build partnerships that cut across industries, sectors, and geographies for a better world that leaves no one behind. Now is the time for all of us to step up to achieve the SDGs.”

The WBA’s launch follows a year of international consultations, expert meetings, and online surveys, with more than 10,000 stakeholders representing business, civil society, government, and consumers themselves. Through this collaboration, the WBA defined its vision, institutional structure, and priorities in terms of focus industries and SDGs.

The WBA is funded by Aviva and the Governments of the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Denmark.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands said: “The world has united on an agenda for tackling the greatest global challenges and produced a framework for action: the SDGs. Achieving the SDGs is a collective effort. Benchmarks give us valuable insights and identify areas for improvement. Measuring helps us raise standards together.”

Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary of the United Kingdom said: “More and more people are recognizing that businesses need to be a force for good in the world. In giving ordinary people the information they need to hold companies to account, the World Benchmarking Alliance will fundamentally challenge businesses to up their game on the contribution they are making to the Global Goals.”

Ulla Tørnæs, Minister for Development Cooperation of Denmark said: “The World Benchmarking Alliance is an ambitious and necessary initiative to unleash the power of business and private finance for the Sustainable Development Goals. With the benchmarks, companies will know what we as a society expect from them on the sustainability agenda. This will take us one step closer to the vision and ambition to create the world we want embodied in the Sustainable Development Goals.”