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World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) is a membership organization of companies (as represented by their CEO or boardlevel executive) that is dedicated to creating “business solutions for a sustainable world.” It was founded in 1992 by a Swiss entrepreneur who believed that business has an important role to play in sustainability issues. The WBCSD's website at http://www.wbcsd.org provides free access to the publications and tools developed from and tested by members.

SDG Business Hub

A good place to start is the SDG Business Hub. The United Nations adopted 17 sustainable development goals (SDG) in September 2015 under a broad plan to “end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all.” The specific goals can be viewed on the WBCSD's website at http://www.wbcsd.org/sdghub/overview.aspx. The Hub is a central location where businesses can learn about the SDGs, find examples of best practices, and locate guidebooks and research studies to help implement SDG policies and disclosures.

The business insights section of the SDG Business Hub includes articles from recent LinkedIn and blog posts, such as “Is there profit in the SDGs?” and “What's the business perspective on the SDGs?” The first refers to PricewaterhouseCoopers's “Business Through a New Lens” survey of CEOs (available at http://pwc.to/1RkdVI4), in which the responding CEOs indicated that they expect to have to serve the interests of a wider range of stakeholders than just corporate investors. More than half of the responding CEOs stated that creating value for broader categories of interested parties will positively impact profits. “Reporting on the Sustainable Development Goals—Challenges for OECD Countries” is a four-part blog from Mark Halle of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) that discusses the author's views on the important role of wealthier nations in pursuing sustainability in addition to their pre-existing economic agendas.

The WBCSD has several interesting studies and guidebooks that are downloadable for free. One useful resource is the 2015 edition of “Reporting Matters,” the third in a series of studies on corporate nonfinancial reporting (http://wbcsdpublications.org/project/reporting-matters-2015/). The WBCSD examined the sustainability and combined or integrated reports of 169 member companies for trends, best practices, and overall effectiveness. The research found that the large majority of companies use Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) guidelines and have their reports externally assured. In addition to summarizing the content of actual reports, “Reporting Matters” provides background information on how companies can address the SDGs in their sustainability reports. An appendix includes resources for benchmarking best practices, a complete listing of the reviewed companies, and a glossary.

Another useful resource is “Measuring Socio-Economic Impact: A Guide for Business” (http://wbcsdpublications.org/project/measuring-socio-economic-impact-a-guide-for-business/). The guide provides an introduction to socioeconomic impact, as well as an overview of measurement tools. Ten specific tools are profiled, such as the GEMI (Global Environmental Management Initiative) Metrics Navigator and input-output modeling, based on criteria like the strategic fit, what is being measured (the metric), data requirements, level of effort required to use the tool, and how to access or obtain it. While many of these resources are flexible and adaptable to a company's needs, most are not usable without some customization.

SDG Compass

The SDG Compass was developed by the WBCSD in partnership with the GRI and the United Nations Global Compact. The compass is actually maintained on a separate website, at http://sdgcompass.org, but is linked to WBCSD resources. It is designed to help users understand and implement the 17 SDGs through online briefing notes, a downloadable executive summary and 30-page guide, an inventory of business tools, and an inventory of business indicators. The examples discussed here focus on Goal 8—to promote sustained, inclusive, and sustainable economic growth; full and productive employment; and decent work for all. In general, the briefing notes discuss the role of business in addressing a goal, the key business themes of a goal, examples of business actions and solutions, and examples of key indicators and tools. To meet Goal 8, businesses create jobs and economic growth. Key themes include availability of a skilled workforce, key actions include offering apprenticeships, an example indicator is average training hours per employee, and an example tool is the WBCSD's “Measuring Socio-Economic Impact” publication.

The “SDG Compass” guidebook explains the five action steps of 1) understanding the SDGs, 2) defining priorities to pursue opportunities and reduce risks, 3) setting organization goals that align with the SDGs, 4) integrating sustainability into corporate governance, and 5) reporting and communicating sustainable development performance using common indicators. The inventory of business tools is a sortable chart that ties currently available tools to the 17 individual SDGs. Almost 70 tools can be sorted by SDG goal, tool developer (such as the GRI and the WBCSD), or keyword, and are linked to their underlying host resource. Goal 8, for example, includes 10 tools, such as Impact Reporting & Investment Standards (IRIS), which incorporates well-known third-party reporting standards (IFRS, among others) to reduce the user's reporting burden. The inventory of more than 800 business indicators can be sorted by SDG goal, business theme, type, source, and keyword. Goal 8 alone has over 100 applicable reporting standards. As an example, Goal 8.1 under the economic performance theme links to the GRI's G4 Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and EVG&D (economic value generated and distributed).


CorporateRegister.com offers free access to online corporate responsibility reports. Users can also access the database to create display charts on the number of aggregate published reports by country and sector. The site's homepage is http://www.corporateregister.com/.

Tools and Resources

The WBCSD has developed a toolkit of 30 resources designed to build awareness and provide practical steps for project implementation. The tools are described in a 16-page PDF (http://wbcsdpublications.org/project/wbcsd-tool-box). One of the tools, called “Buy, Sell, Trade!” is a roleplaying exercise that demonstrates the benefits of preserving ecosystems for the services they provide. “Eco4Biz” is a decision-making tool, available in interactive and print versions, that helps users understand how to measure and value ecosystems and biodiversity in general and industryspecific situations.

The WBCSD's website also offers access to the most recently published sustainability reports from members (http://www.wbcsd.org/member-reporting/membersustainabilityreporting.aspx). With almost 150 reports to view, readers can see the variety of approaches taken, level of detail, and formats used, as well as the areas that individual organizations have chosen to emphasize. P&G, for example, focuses on environmental issues and social programs in a 12-page document. Canon, in contrast, presents a webpage with topical highlights and a 140-page report with extensive charts, graphs, data summaries prepared in accordance with ISO 26000, a third-party opinion letter, and a third-party assurance statement. Much can be learned about a company's operations, activities, and mission beyond the traditional bottom line. CPAs in public practice may also be interested in the 64-page report by Deloitte.

Finally, the WBCSD has prepared two interesting short videos that discuss the concept of natural capital, found at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZPHR0nLUNBXeu9j0nlGKFA. “Pitch for Nature” explains what natural capital is, how organizations can account for the value of nature, and why it is important. “Why Investing in Nature Is Good in Business” addresses the importance of natural capital for creating wealth.

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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