Davos 2020 – Are Big Business Adopting the SDGs or Hijacking the Agenda?

Davos 2020 kicks off today. For its 50th anniversary, World Economic Forum (WEF) decided its theme for Davos was going to be “Stakeholders for Cohesive and Sustainable World. With so much noise around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), have businesses finally awoken to the reality of sustainability? Or are private companies using WEF’s agenda as a global PR stunt?  

SDGs provide a host of business opportunities for private companiesA report by the Business & Sustainable Development showed that achieving the SDGs will offer a minimum of $12 trillion in business opportunities. You would think more companies will be taking advantage of this. You are not wrong there. The UN Global Impact reported that more than 80% of its member companies have committed to advancing one or more SDGs. However, most of these private entities have simply re-branded their corporate social responsibility (CSR) mandate under the name of a suitable SDG goal.  

So, how are businesses getting away with greenwashing the SDGs? I think it is because of two main reasons. First, the goals are not mandatory for private companies to accomplish. This means that as a private company, you can avoid any form of responsibility when it comes to advancing the SDGs. Second, each goal is broad and open to interpretation. This allows businesses to find loopholes and vague correlation links to the SDGs.  

As we start the Davos week, which is centered around SDGs, my only fear is that businesses will simply utilize this platform as a lip service. To leave you with a more positive note, the world has enough CSR and philanthropic money to achieve all the 17 SDGs by 2030. However, we are missing a crucial piece to the puzzle – meaningful engagement with businesses and its leaders 

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