ESG and Africa’s Unlisted Companies: Benchmarking to unlock private sector sustainability
An important part of the legacy of Kofi Annan, the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations, was showing the world that it makes sense to set shared global targets for development. During his term in office, the UN adopted the Millennium Development Goals, a set of eight targets to be achieved by 2015. An evaluation in 2013 pointed out that a lot of progress was made, albeit not enough. One of the major lessons drawn from this experience was that the UN should do more to mobilize the potential of the private sector to achieve the next set of goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to which the UN unanimously agreed in 2015.
Benchmarking provides the key to do so, concluded the Business & Sustainable Development Commission (BSDC) in 2017. In its flagship report, , it showed that sustainable development presents an enormous growth opportunity—if business can understand economic, social, and environmental challenges as future value drivers. According to the commission, ‘a well-designed benchmarking process allows individual companies to decide for themselves how to develop sustainably, in line with the Global Goals, while at the same time setting them all on a competitive “race to the top”.’ It allows individual investors and civil society to hold companies effectively to account for investing in and promoting good corporate performance on sustainable development. And it provides an incentive for companies to improve on their corporate sustainability performance.