On 15 November 2018, on the base of ACIG GC there took place a discussion session ‘Sustainable Development. Role of Russia’, which was devoted to presentation and discussion of conclusions of topical research projects, related to the issue of business involvement into the achieving of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Guests and participants were united not only by the topic – global and or the sake of global well-being - SDGs and role of Russian business in achieving them – but also by the common will to make this role more visible, significant, active, and corresponding to the potential of Russian business leaders, which are also leading in responsible sustainable corporate practice, introducing and promoting its new high standards and even proclaiming their intention to transform the business models for the SDGs. At the same time, it’s evident that for further quality steps we need significant steps to shift from discussing priorities to introducing methodology of reaching them, to transformation of business strategies and business models, as well as to measuring specific practical results both from the position of socio-economic effects and growth and development of business itself in global economy. UN Global Compact Local Network (UNGC) jointly with RSPP and other key partners suggests using the UNGC platform (international UN initiative for business on sustainable development) as one of the tools of real carful joint work in this direction.
Alexander Plakida, Chair of the Boards of the Association ‘National Network of the Global Compact’, Deputy Board Chair of ACIG GC, Managing Partner of ‘Alliance Consulting’ confirmed the working attitude during his welcome address to the presentation of thematic research projects: ‘Today I am here in three capacities, as a business representative, Global Compact participant and the Chair of the Local Network Board. Values that we are discussing here, have importance for me in all the three cases. 10 Principles of the UNGC are laconic, simply presented peculiar Bible principles for business, taking responsibility for employees, environment, for meeting real consumer needs, etc. Respecting these principles allows for forming harmonic environment, encouraging and developing employees, company development for the benefit of society and each person. Joining the UNGC provides for new advantages and opportunities for such companies, since it combines a library of knowledge, practical cases, partnership and support of the club. Our company – ACIG GC – is a direct confirmation of acceleration, which gives participation in the UNGC. Today, as a Chair of the Board of the Global Compact Local Network Russia, I can confirm that involvement means new incentives and practical implications, and we would like to extend our circle of friends, partners and participants. Today we are able to gain recognition of the status of such companies, responsible business, to facilitate success of already launched projects and to launch new joint projects to promote values of responsible business practice and the SDGs’.
In order to include requests and perception of business into this work, UNGC Russian Network jointly with the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs is forming a programme ‘Sustainable Development. RoleofRussia’. One of the stages of this programme is a survey among Russian companies on the level of their current involvement and prospects in achieving the SDGs. The survey took place in spring-summer 2018. 78 companies responded to the survey, including subsidiaries of international companies. Elena Dolgikh, General Director of the ‘SGM’ Agency, which did the main work on preparation and implementation of the research project by the request of the UNGC Network Russia, spoke about the process and results of the research, included into the specialized brochure. FBK Grant Tornton and RSPP became the partners of the research project.
Vladimir Skobarev, an expert of the Corporate Governance and Sustainable Development partners of FBK Tornton – an expert on non-financial reporting and sustainability business strategies - noted that answers of the respondents in general present a more optimistic pictures than the one, that FBK auditors see during assurance of sustainability reports. ‘The research provides a slightly more positive outlook of certain moments, including the integration if sustainable development issues into corporate governance processes. It is logical since many companies want to present themselves in a better light than they are in reality. Nevertheless, despite certain overassessment of reality, survey results deserve attention and following discussion, because they are the part of our common way forward. Today we can observe also opposite corporate examples. On the one hand – there are companies that even do not have practice of sustainability reporting, on the other hand – there are the actors, which have the report examined and approved first at the managerial level, and than – by the top director. We need to gradually move from one side to another’.
Galina Kopylova, Advisor on the Corporate Responsibility, Sustainable Development and Social Entrepreneurship of RSPP, undertaking important work on classification and assessment, and in general on non-financial reporting in Russia, assured the audience that we can in a more and more optimistic way view the results of this work. ‘Currently RSPP received 45 corporate non-financial report, and in 30 of them work on SDGs is highlighted. We can confirm that there has increased not only amount of mentions of the SDGs, but the quality of reporting has also improved. Companies start not only disclosing prioritized SDGs, but specific actions – how exactly they work on the SDG chosen. RSPP, continuing subsequent work on promoting sustainable development, has made a decision that our annual contest for the leaders of Russian business will also take place under the aegis of sustainable development. To achieve this, we have introduce a new set of criteria, reflecting company’s activities on sustainable development. We hope that the contest will provide for further awareness on the SDGs among corporates and will demonstrate in what way companies can align their strategies with the SDGs’.
In addition to discussing results of the research of the GC Network Russia, there were presented two other relevant projects, that allowed to extend the discussed context of the SDGs and to review its different aspects.
One of these aspects – an analysis of the mechanisms of involving business in implementation of the SDGs – was presented at the example of a research projects of the Center of Researching International Institutions of RANEPA. The project is called ‘Strategies of Leading Donor Countries on Facilitating Development towards the SDGs’. It targeted both fundamental and applicable objectives (monitoring activities of donor countries on achieving the SDGS, indicator analysis, sources of information, monitoring process, presenting reporting at the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, etc.) Andrey Sakharov, fellow of the Center of Researching International Institutions, commented: ‘Based on our research, we managed to elaborate the recommendations for Russia on boosting business activities on the SDGs. First of all, it is crucial to create a clear mechanism of reflecting business position and involving companies into making SDGs-related decisions and forming strategies, so that business could have an opportunity to claims its priorities and interests. These mechanisms should provide for reporting and transparency, state should report on the issues related to the SDGs implementation. In Russia there exist sustainable business practices, though there is a lack of systematic mechanism, and the state should change that’.
One more relevant aspect of the topic is integrating the SDGs into corporate non-financial reporting. Experts from PricewaterhouseCoopers – Vera Smirnova, Senior Manager of the Corporate Governance and Sustainable Development practice, and Anton Zhigalov, Senior Consultant of the Corporate Governance and Sustainable Development practice, for the first time presented in Russia results of an analysis of reporting of Russian and international companies against mentioning/using the SDGs. The research allows to see not only the frequency of mentioning the SDGs, but also the way, in which efforts on achieving them are disclosed. It also demonstrates comparison of the SDGs reporting in different countries and industries. PwC experts highlighted that business requests are not always in line with societal needs. Many SDGs in the reports of Russian companies for a moment reflect their ambitions, though such a situation in general correspond to the overall worldwide trends. RwC recommends to avoid prioritizing the SDGs that are ‘easier’ than the others, and to pay more attention to the SDGs that are able to have the biggest impact on society. As an illustration of practical tools for creating high-quality reports there was presented a Guide on Business Reporting on the SDGs, elaborated in 2018 by Global Compact with participation of the PwC.
To make sure that the joint activities on forming and implementing the programme ‘Sustainable Development. Role of Russia’ had further practical impetus, UNGC aims at elaborating a collective action plan in 2019, based on the research projects presented. Its basis can already be found in the ‘Summary’ section of the brochure, published following the survey among Russian business on the level of its current involvement and prospects of its participating in implementing the SDGs.
‘Summary is a prototype of our action plan’, - commented Marina Vashukova, Executive Director of the Association ‘National Network of the Global Compact’. ‘We are looking forward to receiving suggestions and additional information to this section, advice ad recommendations, broad participation of experts and business to be able to move forward in 2019. Wecalledourprogramme‘SustainableDevelopment. RoleofRussia’. To some extent, it is forestalling, and we work hard to achieve that. We believe that generalizing makes sense since Global Compact is and international platform. Our activities and our programme are aimed at presenting their results not only in Russia, to synchronize agenda and to have global dialogue. At the Olympics, everyone supports their country represented by sportspeople and teams. At the UN Global Compact platform, Russian business reflects role of Russia in achieving the SDGs. And we invited everyone to join this team!’
Link to the pictures from the event.