Some 40% of companies are ignoring some or all of the United Nations’ (UN’s) sustainable development goals (SDGs), according to a survey by accountancy firm PwC.

The SDGs were approved by all UN member states and launched in January 2016, laying out 17 goals and 169 corresponding targets.

PwC said businesses’ priorities were disconnected from the public’s priorities in the UK.

The survey found companies’ top goals were “decent work and economic growth” (goal eight), “gender equality” (five) and “climate action” (13), while the public prioritised “zero hunger” (two), “health and wellbeing” (three) and “no poverty” (one).

Action on greenhouse gases due to regulations

Louise Scott, Director of PwC’s Sustainability & Climate Change Team and co-author of the report, said: “It’s time for the businesses to stop paying lip service to SDGs and convert stakeholder and board aspiration into corporate action.

“Take SDG 13 ‘Climate Action,’ for example – a favourite goal for the majority of UK businesses – you might assume it’s one of the top-rated priorities because of the high-profile nature of climate change.

“But we think a more likely explanation is that most organisations already have mechanisms in place to measure greenhouse gases due to regulatory obligations, making it a relatively simple goal to respond to.”

> See PWC's statement