Profit Through Ethics on Delivering the SDGs

Is your business committed to delivering one or more of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals?

Question collaborators: WWF, UKSSD


We answer NO to this question as we do not yet have the policies and practices in place to answer YES. But this does not mean that we are ambivalent to or uninterested in the SDGs. Far from it.

To cover off the MUST requirements to answer NO to this question:-

  • We have attempted to understand the positive and negative impacts that our business has on the SDGs

  • We HAVE also taken steps to deliver on the SDGs

... as the remainder of this answer we hope will make clear.

Profit Through Ethics Ltd ('PTE') is the business that conceived, develops and maintains the Responsible 100 ('R100') initiative. R100 is a business tool and a growing social movement. We believe that, to live sustainably on a fragile, resource-constrained planet, responsibility must drive profitability and irresponsibility must diminish it. Our aim is to make this happen.

We support businesses prepared to demonstrate high degrees of openness and honesty on a wide range of social, environmental and ethical issues. Working with businesses - and NGOs, campaign groups and assorted non-business experts - we develop questions which prompt businesses to explain and justify what they do in response to the various responsibility challenges they face. Issues examined include tax, community impact, living wage, executive pay, modern day slavery, workplace diversity, animal testing, customer complaints and redress, and many more besides, including delivering the SDGs. For each question, we also create a scorecard which seeks to capture the consensus view as to POOR, OKAY, GOOD and EXCELLENT standards of policy and practice.

This new question and scorecard on delivering the SDGs has been developed in collaboration with WWF, UKSSD and Kyocera Document Solutions (UK) in particular. This work has required a significant investment in terms of researching and administration time, meetings and phone calls, and other such resources. It has required that all three of the R100/PTE team members who have contributed to this effort to have acquired adequate insight and knowledge of the SDGs, how they are designed to work, and how they are working in practice. We suspect that many other organisations working on the SDGs, and on delivering against them, feel like we do in that we are still only at the start of what is likely to be a long journey.

Our work includes identifying pressing social, environmental and ethical concerns and working with experts - inside and outside business - to help define and describe POOR, OKAY, GOOD and EXCELLENT practices. Our tool and processes are designed to assist businesses which are striving to be more responsible on all the issues which impact on them and on wider society and the environment.

An issue can be narrow or very broad in its focus. For instance, high executive pay can be considered an issue in and of itself, and it is the subject of one of the 53 separate questions which make up the current R100 question set. But it is also a contributor to the problem of increasing inequality, which is now also the focus of a R100 question. Inequality is then one aspect of the broadest issue we have examined to date, namely this one on delivering the UN’s SDGs. 

To describe the SDGs as ambitious is an understatement. Reducing inequalities is goal #10 amongst 17, arguably one seventeenth of the total change sought in the world. As we have discovered recently, this one issue is made up of several other pressing and complex sub-issues and challenges. Businesses can affect levels of inequality through their decisions and practices in regards to high pay, low pay, tax responsibility, employee training, workplace diversity, and through the products and services they provide, and the markets they serve. 

The SDGs are not just targeted at the largest companies in some countries, but all businesses and all governments in all nations, right across the world. They are also founded on a principle that no one is left behind, that all every person on Earth is included. These characteristics and the scale and scope of the goals has led to the SDGs being described as "the closest thing the world has to a global strategy". It is a fantastically ambitious set of targets which require governments, businesses and civil society to do their part, and to work collaboratively, to successfully effect.

Each of the 17 goals covers a range of issues which are examined directly or indirectly by the 53 R100 questions. Unfortunately, there is not tidy or simple way to correlate the two. It is perhaps that the starting point for the SDGs was in considering primarily what governments need to do to help make a better world, and R100's starting point was considering what businesses needed to do.

This stated, both R100 and the SDGs are focused on the same basic challenge: how to enable people to live better lives in a better world. 

For us, this is best achieved by identifying, supporting and rewarding the businesses and other organisations which align with the right hand side of the table on this About page, at the expense of those on the left hand side. 

Championing these organisations, and enabling them to profit through their commitment to increasingly responsible practices and compete in a race to the top is the aim and purpose of R100, and the focus of our work all day, every day.

Answered at 08:03AM on 19 Wednesday Apr 2017

In September 2015 the United Nations General Assembly formally adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a new global framework of 17 goals and 169 targets to wipe out poverty, fight inequality and tackle climate change by 2030.

The SDGs will carry on the momentum generated by the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but with one fundamental difference: the principle of universality that underpins the framework. This means all countries are expected to implement the goals domestically, as well as work together to achieve the ambition of the SDGs globally.

The SDGs require a holistic approach involving actors from all sectors. Governments need to look to society, and business in particular, for help to achieve them. The private sector has an important role to play in implementing the SDGs, as complex challenges require integrated responses that involve knowledge and resources from all stakeholders.

Many business leaders are confident that, far from being a burden, the SDGs have the potential to drive successful new strategies, innovations and investments.

The Business and Sustainable Development Commission, launched in Davos in January 2016, aims to map the economic prize that could be available to business if the UN SDGs are achieved. In its flagship report, Better Business, Better World, the Commission describes how business can contribute to delivering these goals.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The 'Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)' is a set of seventeen aspirational "Global Goals" with 169 targets between them, as follows:-

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health & Well-being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water & Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced inequalities
  11. Sustainable cities and communities
  12. Responsible consumption and production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the goals
Global Goals

The 'Global Goals' are the same as and interchangeable with the "Sustainable Development Goals", or the "SDGs" for short.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The '2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' establishes the Sustainable Development Goals. This document recognises that the challenge of implementing this agenda requires new and collaborative ways of working, characterised by multi-stakeholder networks that can harness the resources and the expertise of the private sector, academia, and the public as well as of Government and Civil Society.

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

The 'Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)' were the eight international development goals for the year 2015 that had been established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration. All 189 United Nations member states at that time, and at least 22 international organizations, committed to help achieve the following Millennium Development Goals by 2015:

  1. To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. To achieve universal primary education
  3. To promote gender equality and empower women
  4. To reduce child mortality
  5. To improve maternal health
  6. To combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  7. To ensure environmental sustainability
  8. To develop a global partnership for development.

Each goal had specific targets, and dates for achieving those targets. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replaced the MDGs in 2016.


'Targets' are objectives or results towards which efforts are directed. In relation to the SDGs, they the nine or ten objectives which focus and contextualise each goal. For example, Goal 3 is "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages". One of the nine targets set to this goal is Target 3.3: "By 2030, end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and neglected tropical diseases and combat hepatitis, water-borne diseases and other communicable diseases."


An 'indicator' is something that indicates the state or level of something. In relation to the SDGs, indicators are linked to the targets which are assigned to each of the goals. For example, Target 3.3 (set under Goal 3) to reduce various diseases by 2030 has five relevant indicators to assess progress toward the target, as follows:
3.3.1 Number of new HIV infections per 1,000 uninfected population, by sex, age and key populations
3.3.2 Tuberculosis incidence per 1,000 population
3.3.3 Malaria incidence per 1,000 population
3.3.4 Hepatitis B incidence per 100,000 population
3.3.5 Number of people requiring interventions against neglected tropical diseases.

The Final list of proposed Sustainable Development Goal indicators, which includes the 230 agreed indicators, can be downloaded here.

Answering YES

All Businesses MUST

Explain what methods are used to determine which of the 17 goals bear the most relevance to their business, its mission and purpose

Explain which of the goals they have chosen to deliver on, and how, with reference to the targets set which each of the goals

Describe which goals they are unable to currently support despite them having a material impact to the business, and which goals they impact negatively against, and explain why

Outline how performance in pursuit of their chosen goals is monitored, measured and reported on

All Businesses MAY

Describe any official statement or policy regarding the goals or why no such statement or policy yet exists

Explain who in the organisation is responsible for overseeing commitment to and delivering against the SDGs

Explain whether their actions are in line with the framework of targets and indicators which support each goal

Describe any other actions they may be taking to make a positive impact in any of the areas covered by the 2030 Agenda

List any partners they are working with to deliver the SDGs

Explain if company leadership is incorporating SDGs into employee learning and development

Explain what tools they use to assess their impact of delivering on the SDGs

Mention any future intentions regarding this issue

Answering NO

All Businesses MUST

Explain whether they have attempted to understand the positive and negative impacts their business has on the SDGs

Explain why they have not taken steps to deliver on the sustainable development goals

All Businesses MAY

List any practices that are relevant, but not sufficient to answer YES

DON'T KNOW is not a permissible answer to this question

NOT APPLICABLE is not a permissible answer to this question

Version 1

To receive a score of 'Excellent'

Clearly demonstrates deep commitment to delivery of sustainable development, SDGs and measures and reports on progress

Examples of policies and practices which may support the EXCELLENT statement:

  1. Works towards the sustainable development goals is mission critical for the business
  2. Walks the talk for sustainable development through the business model, strategy, supply chains etc.
  3. Actively encourages and enables other businesses and organisations to take part in delivering the SDGs
  4. Communicates how the business positively contributes to SDGs and how it will address SDGs where room for improvement/mitigation
  5. Lobbies/works with government/NGOs on meeting targets for the sustainable development agenda
  6. Contributes both physical and financial resources towards the agenda
  7. Actively encourages employees to engage in SDG related work
  8. Aligns business purpose and mission with delivering the SDGs
  9. Works closely with UKSSD or any of its partner organisations or partners in other countries, or similar such organisations, to deliver SDGs
To receive a score of 'Good'

Does various good things in effort to help deliver the SDGs

Examples of policies and practices which may support the GOOD statement:

  1. Works towards a number of relevant SDGs
  2. Works in business or organisation partnerships to deliver on some of the SDGs
  3. Has set out ambitious plans to ramp up support for SDGs which it is happy to be held to account on
  4. Communicates how the business positively contributes to SDGs and where there is room to improvement/mitigation
To receive a score of 'Okay'

Works to support SDGs on an ad hoc basis, as circumstances or opportunities allow OR delivering the SDGs is not relevant to the business

Examples of policies and practices which may support the OKAY statement:

  1. Works towards some of the SDGs with intentions to deliver on more in the future
  2. Provides satisfactory explanation that delivery of the SDGs is not relevant or applicable to the business
  3. Understand the negative impact it has on other SDGs but has a plan to improve this
  4. Has begun the process of aligning strategy with the SDGs but not yet set public goals and targets
To receive a score of 'Poor'

No support for the SDGs

Examples of policies and practices which may support the POOR statement:

  1. Makes no effort to support any of the SDGs
  2. Business activities at odds with the delivery of one or more SDGs
  3. Critical of the efforts of others to support the SDGs

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