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Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2248; doi:10.3390/su10072248

Article
The Relationship between Investor Materiality and the Sustainable Development Goals: A Methodological Framework
1
Department of Economics and Statistics, University of Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy
2
Department of Business and Law, University of Siena, 53100 Siena, Italy
3
Said Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford OX1 1HP, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 11 May 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 29 June 2018

Abstract

:
The world has great expectations for how the private sector, both companies and investors, can support the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In fact, it is generally believed that these goals cannot be achieved without strong support from the private sector. But will making the world a better place hurt financial returns? The answer is “No” if companies focus on the SDGs and their associated targets that benefit from strong performance on the material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues that matter to investors. In this paper we map the 30 generic ESG issues identified by the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) to the SDGs and their targets. We show that some SASB issues are more material for a given SDG than others. We also show that some SASB issues are more important to the SDGs in general than others. We also map the material ESG issues for each of SASB’s 79 industries to the SDGs and to their targets. For each sector, there are particular SDGs where it has high impact and for each SDG there are particular sectors that have a high impact on it, and some sectors are more important to the SDGs in aggregate than others. The same is true at the target level. This mapping can be used as a guide for both companies and investors who want to understand how value-creating ESG performance can contribute to the SDGs. This paper is divided into four parts. Part I explains the motivation for this study. Part II explains our methodology and Part III the results. Part IV concludes with a summary of our results and some reflections on how our mapping methodology can be improved.
Keywords:
sustainability; Sustainable Development Goals; SDG; materiality; financial performance; impact; Sustainability Accounting Standard Board; SASB

1. Introduction

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ratified by the United Nations on 15 September 2015, have been described as “the closestthing the Earth has to a strategy” [1]. It is also widely acknowledged that the goals set for 2030 cannot be achieved by the public sector alone. Indeed, the greater burden falls on the private sector with estimates that it will have to close the funding gap of $2.5 trillion per year and to ensure that the private sector provides the expected 50% of the total $115 trillion cost of funding the SDGs [2] Fortunately, the investment community is increasingly seeing the SDGs as creating investment opportunities and corporations are looking for the business opportunities they create. The current discussion on the role of the private sector in the achievement of the goals is intense [3,4,5], especially at the institutional level. In May 2018, the European Commission, on the basis of the Recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group on Sustainable Finance [6], adopted a package of measures that set out a comprehensive strategy to connect finance to sustainability through reorienting capital flows towards sustainable investments, managing financial risk connected to climate change, social issues and environmental degradation and fostering long-termism in financial and economic activities [7].Besides measures on SDG implementations at a country level, such as the SDG Index and Dashboard of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN-SDSN), in order to track progress towards the goals and their associated 169 targets at a company level, a large number of tools and “business indicators” have been proposed. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) together with Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the UN Global Compact (Global Compact) have created SDG Compass, a guide with associated tools and knowledge resources to help companies align their business strategies with the SDGs and to measuring and managing their contribution, including an inventory that maps more than 1500 existing business indicators against the 17 SDGs and their respective 169 targets. GRI and the Global Compact have also published a document [8] to help companies understand the SDGs and their targets. Also, consulting firms such as EY, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers have developed their own tools to help companies interested in understanding how their strategies can support the SDGs. The SDGs are about “impact”, and in these measures the unit of analysis is not the company, but something outside of the company whose operations affect it, such as reduced gender inequality in a community or replenishment of fishing stocks. However, many of the metrics are about a company’s operations and the impact must be inferred or further calculated, often based on data that lies outside the company’s control. On this topic, Vörösmarty et al. [9] propose a new approach to evaluate corporate products and services within broader environmental or human beneficiary settings, but true impact measurement is still at an early stage of development. Ideally, an impact measure can be linked to actions in order to show differences, both positive and negative, had the action not taken place. In this paper, we present a framework which will enable investors and companies to contribute to the SDGs by identifying the material ESG issues (what investors care about) by sector that also contribute to the SDGs (what the world cares about). Within the broader framework of the performance implications of sustainability investments [10,11,12,13,14] and starting from the evidence of how ESG materiality positively affects financial performance [15,16], we aim at providing a new framing able to answer to the long-standing question of “Can a company do well by doing good?” In particular, will contributing to the SDGs be good for a company’s financial performance or will creating these positive externalities actually hurt financial performance? The somewhat unsatisfying but honest answer is “It depends.” Our thesis is that good performance on ESG issues which are material from the perspective of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) but which also have impact on one or more SDGs will be a situation where doing good means doing well.
We chose SASB’s framework as the basis for mapping to the SDGs for two reasons. First, it is focused on investors, not multiple stakeholders, which is the case for the SDGs. This captures the tension companies feel in trying to be responsive to both audiences. Second, it is the only framework that has identified the material ESG issues at the sector and industry level. This is essential since which of the 30 generic ESG issues are material varies substantially by industry.

2. Methodology

The concept of materiality we adopt in this paper is the one used by SASB that was established to identify the material ESG issues at an industry level that are financially relevant for investors, as they affect financial performance [17]. SASB is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization established in 2011. SASB’s mission is to develop measurement standards for reporting on material environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues—often called “non-financial information”—that are of the same relevance and reliability as accounting standards for financial information. Because the materiality of sustainability issues varies across industries [18], SASB has established the Sustainable Industry Classification System™ [19] (SICS) comprised of 10 sectors subdivided into 79 industries. Companies are grouped in terms of similar resource intensity, as well as sustainability risks and opportunities.
Industry working groups comprised of companies, investors, and industry experts of various kinds work to identify the material issues for each industry and the appropriate key performance indicator for measuring and reporting on them. It has issued a set of provisional standards for which it has received public comment and is now working on incorporating this feedback into them. Following Phadke and DeMates [20], we started with a mapping of SASB’s 30 generic ESG issues organized in terms of the categories of environment, social capital, human capital, business model and innovation, and leadership and governance to the SDGs. In our analysis, we didn’t consider SDG 17 since this is an overarching one covering all SDGs. Furthermore, as it is intuitive that different issues might have a different degree of impact on the SDGs, we increased the detail of our analysis by mapping SASB’s 30 generic ESG issues to the target level for each SDG. Table 1 describes the 17 SDGs and Table 2 presents the description of the targets of SDG 8 as an example.
These mappings represent the basis of our framework as they allowed us to calculate two different sets of indices (both at a goal and a target level):
(a)
a set of indices that measure the ability of SASB’s issues to impact the SDGs and the relevance of SASB’s issues to the SDGs;
(b)
a set of indices that measure the ability of each industry and each sector to impact the SDGs.
Moreover, mapping at the target level allowed us to calculate, for each of the abovementioned sets, secondary indices that measure the intensity of impact on a given SDG of each SASB’s issue. In our analysis, we considered 107 targets. The 169 targets also include means of implementation targets to facilitate outcomes. SDG17, which covers global partnership, comprises 19 such targets, and there is a total of 43 more under SDGs 1–16 (where they are separately identified using small letters after the goal number, e.g., 16.b: Promote and enforce non-discriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development) [21]. Target selection is shown in Table 3.
For the first group of indices, at a goal level for each SASB issue i (i: 1 to 30) we identified the number (G) of SDG(s) impacted; in other words, a generic SDG j could be impacted (impi,j = 1) and a generic SDG l could not be (impi,l = 0). We then calculated for each SASB issue the SDG Relevance Index (SRI) as the ratio between the number of SDGs impacted by a specific material issue to the total number—16—of SDGs:
S R I i = j = 1 16 i m p i , j 16 .
At a target level, for each SASB issue i (i: 1 to 30) we identified the number (Tj) of targets impacted in a specific SDG j; in other words, a generic target t in SDG j (t: 1 to Tj) could be impacted (impi,j,t = 1) and a generic target s in the same SDG j could be not (impi,j,s = 0).
We then computed for each SASB issue the Target Relevance Index (TRI) as the ratio between the number of targets impacted by a specific material issue on the total number of targets, that shows the ability of each SASB’s issue to impact targets. This could be written by generalizing Equation (1), in the following way:
T R I i = j 1 16 t = 1 T j i m p i , j , t 107 .
To measure the intensity of impact on a given SDG of each issue, for each SASB issue and for each SDGj we calculated, as a secondary index, the Target Specific Relevance Index (TSRI). If a SASB issue i impacts on a generic SDGj (i.e., impi,j = 1), then the TSRI is the ratio between the number of SDGj targets impacted by a specific material issue to the total number of targets of SDGj. The TSRI is defined as:
T S R I i , j = t = 1 T j i m p i , j , t T j .
By symmetry with the previous step, we also look at the number of SASB’s generic ESG issues that impact each of the SDGs (MI) and calculate an ESG Relevance Index (ERI) for each SDG j to measure the extent to which the SDG is impacted by the 30 SASB issues:
E R I j = i = 1 30 i m p j , i 30 = M I 30 .
At target level, to measure the extent to which the single target is impacted by the 30 SASB’s issues, we looked at the number of SASB’s issues affecting each target and calculated an ESG Target Relevance Index (TERI):
T E R I j = i = 1 30 i m p j , i   30 .
In this case, as a secondary index for each SDG we calculated an ESG Target Specific Relevance Index (TSERI) averaging the TERIs related to each SDG:
T S E R I i , j = i = 1 T j T E R I j T j .
However, we should add a caveat to this first set of measures. Our proposal is based simply on counts of various kinds. It does not take into account the fact that a material SASB issue in one sector could be more important than another due to the absolute value of the topic (for example, the total amount of GHG emissions is likely to vary across sectors). If we had a credible weighting scheme, we could propose a more refined methodology based on fuzzy set theory, and the results could be different. We make an attempt to present such advanced methodology later in this paper in Section 4. This same caveat applies to our analysis at the target level. From a company perspective, and investors in the company, the critical question is which SDGs are impacted by the material ESG issues determined by SASB for its industry and how a focus on ESG material issues can contribute to the SDGs; we calculated a second set of indices that provide a measure of the ability of each industry and sector to impact the SDGs. For each SDGj and for each industry nk (nk: 1 to Nk) in a given sector k (k: 1 to 10), we counted the number of industry-specific material issues impacting the SDG (MIk) and calculated the SDG Industry Impact Index (ISII) as the ratio (multiplied by 100) between the number of industry-specific material issues and the total number of SASB general ESG issues (above defined as MI) affecting the single SDG j; in the formula:
I S I I j , n k = i = 1 30 i m p j , i , n k i = 1 30 i m p j , i 100 = M I k M I 100 .
At the target level, for each industry nk (nk: 1 to Nk) in a given sector k (k: 1 to 10), we counted the number of industry-specific material issues impacting each target tj in each SDG j (TMIk) and for each target we calculate the Industry Target Impact Index (ITII) as the ratio (multiplied by 100) between TMIk and the total number of SASB general ESG issues (defines as TMI) affecting the single target tj in SDGj; in formula:
I T I I j , T j , n k = i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i , n k i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i   100 = T M I k T M I 100 .
Also, in this case, as a secondary index, for each SDG we calculated an Industry SDG Target Impact Index (ISTII), as the ratio (multiplied by 100) between the sum over targets in SDG j of the number of industry-specific material issues impacting each target tj in each SDG (TMIk), and the sum over targets in SDGj of the total number of SASB general ESG issues affecting the single Target tj in SDG j; in formula:
I S T I I j , n k = t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i , n k t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i   100 .
At a sector level k and at a goal level, the Sector SDG Impact Index was computed averaging the single ISIIs:
S S I I j , k = n k = 1 N k I S I I j , n k N k .
At a target level, for each sector k, the target tj in SDG j Impact Index (STII) was computed averaging the single ITIIs:
S T I I j , T j , k = n k = 1 N k I T I I j , T j , n k N k .
The corresponding secondary index, for each sector k, is the Sector SDG j Target Impact Index (SSTII), computed averaging the single ISTIIs:
S S T I I j , k = n k = 1 N k I S T I I j , n k N k .
An Average SDG Impact Index was finally computed both at industry (AISII) and sector (ASSII) level, averaging the ISIIs and SSIIs, respectively:
A I S I I n k = j = 1 16 I S I I j , n k 16 ,
A S S I I n k = j = 1 16 S S I I j , n k 16 .
An Average SDG Target Impact Index was finally computed both at the industry (AISTII) and sector (ASSTII) level, averaging the single ITIIs and SSTIIs:
A I S T I I , n k = j = 1 16   t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i , n k j = 1 16   t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i   100 ,
A S S T I I , n k = j = 1 16   t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i , n k j = 1 16   t = 1 T j i = 1 30 i m p j , T j , i   100 .
A synthesis of the calculated indices is presented in Table 4.

3. Results and Discussion

3.1. The SDG Relevance Indices and the ESG Relevance Indices

Table 5 presents the values of the SDG Relevance Indices obtained mapping SASB sustainability issues to the SDGs both at a goal (SRI) and a target (TRI) level defined by (1) and (2) in the methodology section, respectively.
We can observe a substantial variation in the ability of the SASB issues to impact the SDGs. On a goal level, the SRI ranges from 6.3% to 87.5% with a mean of 34.2% and a standard deviation of 17%; business ethics and transparency of payments and data security and privacy are only relevant to SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) whereas supply chain management impacts 14 of the SDGs (the exceptions are SDG 2 on ending hunger, and SDG 4 on inclusive and equitable quality education). This shows that some SASB issues are much important to the SDGs in terms of scope than others but also that the SASB issues are in general relevant to the SDGs.
At a target level, values of the TRI range from 0.93% to 33.64% with an average value of 12.95% and a standard deviation of 7%; data security and privacy is relevant only for target 16.4 (by 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets and combat all forms of organized crime) whereas supply chain management is relevant for 36 out of the 107 targets considered in our analysis.
When we consider the aggregate values for each SASB dimension, we find that business model and innovation present the highest values for both indices, with an SRI of 46.88% and a TRI of 15.98% (Table 6).
The intensity of impact on a given SDG of each issue is provided by the Target Specific Relevance Index (TSRI), as defined in (3). Detailed results are reported in Table A1 in Appendix A. The TSRI ranges from 10% to 100% with a mean of 39.1% and a standard deviation of 21.4%. If on a goal level, our analysis shows that not all the SDGs are impacted by the same SASB issues, on a target level we can add that not all SASB issues that impact the same SDG do it with the same intensity. For example, SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) has three targets. Supply chain management impacts all of them (100%), GHG emissions two of them (66.67%), and access and affordability only one of them (33.33%). In this regard, it is important to notice that the number of targets varies across the SDGs, ranging from three in SDG 7 and SDG 13 (climate action) to 10 in SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) and SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).
The extent to which each SDG is impacted by the 30 SASB issues, is measured, at a goal level, by the ESG Relevance Index (ERI), as defined in (4). Values of the ERI presented in Table 5 show that also for this index we have a variation similar to the SRI. The number of SASB issues impacting single SDG ranges from four for SDG 4 (quality education) to eighteen for SDG 3 (good health and well-being) and consequently the ERI ranges from 13% to 60% with a mean of 36%. This shows that, on a simple count basis, doing well on material issues will be more important for some SDGs than for others which suggests that the private sector can make more contributions to some SDGs than others.
At a target level, the corresponding index we calculated is the Target ESG Relevance Index (TERI), defined in (5). Detailed values of the index are reported in Table A2 in the Appendix A. The TERI ranges from 46.7% for Target 3.9 (by 2030, substantially reduce the number of deaths and illnesses from hazardous chemicals and air, water and soil pollution and contamination) to 0% for 17 targets not impacted by any SASB issue, with a mean of 12.65%, meaning that on average each target is impacted by less than four SASB’s issues.
Averaging the TERIs across each SDG, as defined in (6), we calculated the Target Specific ESG Relevance Index (TSERI). Table 7 shows that whereas on a goal level the SDG most impacted by SASB’s issues is SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing, 60%), at a target level it is SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy, 26%). The TSERI ranges from 4% for SDG 4 (quality education) to 26% for SDG 7, with a mean of 12.95%.

3.2. The SDG Impact Indices and the Target Impact Indices

The second group of indices we created allows the assessment of the specific ability of the issues that are financially material for an industry. It is based on the assumption that that the number of SDGs and targets impacted by all SASB issues represent the theoretical maximum effect that can be obtained by the private sector (i.e., the impact on SDGs that a theoretical company operating in a theoretical industry for which all the issues are material on a financial perspective might have). We therefore set this value equal to 100.
On the basis of SASB Materiality Map™ [22], we considered only the issues that are material for each industry in SASB’s Sustainable Industry Classification System™ [19]. In essence, with different degrees of detail, the SDG Impact Index family measures the extent to which a company doing well on the material issues for its sector is doing good by contributing to each SDG.
At a goal level, the Industry SDG Impact Index (ISII)—defined by (7)—measures the ability of an industry to affect a given SDG through its material issues. In general, the ISIIs present noticeable variation and for each industry there is a particular SDG where it has high impact. It is too cumbersome to present all of the data since it would a table of 79 (number of SASB industries) by 16 (number of SDGs). Table 8 illustrates this for the biotechnology industry with the highest score of 75.00 for SDG 4 (quality education) and the lowest of 36.36 for SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions).
At a target level, the Industry Target Impact Index (ITII), defined by (8), presents similar variations. Providing the data would be even more cumbersome, with a table of 79 by 107 (the number of targets). For illustration, Table 9 shows the data for the targets in SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) for the biotechnology industry, with the highest score of 100.00 for target 8.6 and the lowest of 0.00 for target 8.2 (see Table 2 for a description of the targets of SDG 8).
The target level mapping allowed us to calculate a target-weighted SDG impact index for each industry, the Industry SDG Target Impact Index (ISTII), defined by (9). Again, using the biotechnology industry as example, values presented in Table 10 shows a similar variation to the previous index. Nevertheless, while SDG 4 remain the SDG most affected by the industry, SDG 13 (climate action) is in this case the goal with the lowest value.
At a sector level, averaging the industry SDG impact indices both at a goal and a target level, we calculated for each SDG (or each target) three other indices: the Sector SDG Impact Index (SSII); the Sector Target Impact Index (STII); and the Sector SDG Target Impact Index (SSTII), respectively defined by (10), (11) and (12) formulas.
Using the health care Sector as an example, Table 11 shows the data for the targets in SDG 8, with a maximum of 33.33 also in this case for target 8.6 and a minimum value of 0.00 for target 8.2.
Values of SSIIs and SSTIIs are presented in Table 12. We can observe that for each sector there are particular SDGs where it has high impact (in bold in Table 12) and for each SDG there are particular sectors that have a high impact on it. At a goal level, SDG 4 is the goal where the highest number of sectors (four out of ten) presents the highest SSII, whereas at a target level (SSTII) this also applies to SDG 14 (life below water).
The last indices we calculated measure the ability of SASB industries and sectors to impact SDGs in general. These are represented by the Average Industry SDG Impact Index (AISII), the Average Sector SDG Impact Index (ASSII) and the corresponding indices at a target level, Average Industry SDG Target Impact Index (ASTII) and the Average Sector SDG Target Impact Index (ASSTII), described by formulas (13)–(16) in the Methodology section.
For reason of space, we do not present tabulated data of the above-mentioned indices at industry level. Using the industries in the health care sector as an example, the AISII ranges from 15.00 in the health care distribution industry to 50.34 for the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals industries, whereas the AISTII ranges from 13.79 in the managed care industry to 53.69 in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, showing that some industries in the health care sector are more relevant to the SDGs than others. Indeed, this pattern is constant in all sectors, and the average standard deviation of the AISII is 15.31% whereas for the AISTII is equal to 17.27. Values are presented in Table 13.
Finally, in Table 14 are presented the values for the Average Sector SDG Impact Index (ASSII) and the Average Sector SDG Target Impact Index (ASSTII).
In both cases, health care is the sector that has the highest overall impact on the SDGs. This result is not surprising. Table 12 shows that this sector is among the four most important sectors for almost all the goals, followed by consumption, non-renewable resources and resource transformation. The lowest value both at a goal and a target level of the impact index for overall the SDGs is of the financial sector, that is (see Table 12) among the three most important sectors only for SDG 10 (reduced inequalities) when the index is calculated at a goal level and for SDG 1 (no poverty) and SDG 10 when the index is calculated at a target level. Nevertheless, it must be noticed that our framework takes into account only the direct relevance of a sector for SDGs. Indeed, the financial sector plays a crucial role on the achievement of the goals also through the “indirect” impact it can have (i.e., credit scoring based on SDG relevant issues, investment in companies/industries with high SDG impact, etc.). In general, adopting the SDGs as a unified framework for investment and credit policies, the financial sector can enhance the SDG relevance for all sectors. Let’s consider SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy) as example, for which the two most relevant sectors are non-renewable resources and resource transformation. In this case, the financial sector, besides through increasing energy efficiency of own buildings and operations, can contribute to reinforce the impact of the other sectors by financing projects in sustainable energy, through renovation loans, green loans, and structured finance.

4. Conclusions, Limitations and Further Research

In the introduction we noted the importance of the private sector in contributing to the achievement of the SDGs. Both the public and private sector need to understand the varying degrees to which the latter can support the former in achieving the SDGs. In the aggregate, the private sector will be more important to some SDGs, and their specific targets, than others. This paper provides specific guidance on how the private sector can support the SDGs by mapping the material issues that create value for shareholders to SDG targets that will make the world a better place. Our research shows that for each sector, there are particular SDGs where it has high impact and for each SDG there are particular sectors that have a high impact on it, and some sectors are more important to the SDGs in aggregate than others. The same is true at the target level.
None of these findings are surprising since it would be expected that some sectors would be more relevant to a particular SDG than others. What perhaps is surprising is to see that a few sectors stand out in terms of their impact on the SDGs and that some SDGs are more impacted by SASB’s ESG topics than others. The former means that the success of a few sectors will largely determine whether the SDG goals are met. The latter means that while some SDGs will substantially benefit from the private sector “doing well”, others will benefit to a lesser extent.
As introduced in the methodology section, a limitation of the matching between SASB’s material issues with the SDGs or their targets is its definition as a dichotomous variable (impact/not impact). It does not take into account the fact that a material SASB issue in one sector could be more important than another due to the absolute value of the topic. If we had a credible weighting scheme, the results could be different. This same caveat applies to our analysis at the target level. Another caveat is that we treat the impact of a material ESG issue as equal if it is relevant to an SDG. Just how important a material issue is to a SDG could vary according to its nature. For example, GHG emissions could be more important to achieving the success of some SDGs than others even though it has an impact on all of them. This too applies at the target level.
However, we believe that each material issue could impact a single SDG or target with a varying degree between 0 and 1; in this way, we can take into account fuzzy set theory (Zadeh, 1965) [23]. In the social sciences, fuzzy set theory has initially been adopted to study poverty and social exclusion [24,25]. Later, this methodology has been successfully implemented to monitor the effects of marital disruption on well-being [26], to measure the multidimensional education mismatch [27], to measure labor participation [28], and to study multidimensional measures of quality of life [29]. The positive results achieved while applying the fuzzy set approach to fields other than poverty demonstrate its wide applicability and robustness.
In the context of the matching between SASB material issues with the SDGs (or their targets), such varying degrees are defined as membership functions (m.f. = μ i , j ) to the fuzzy set of impacted SGSs. In other words, each SDG is impacted by a certain SASB material issue, but a varying degree from 0 to 1. Clearly, the approach proposed in Part II is a special case of the fuzzy approach, where the membership functions are either 0 (impi,j = 0) or 1 (impi,j = 1).
This methodology could be implemented, for example, in Equation (17), which could be rewritten as:
I S I I j , n k = i = 1 30 μ j , i , n k i = 1 30 μ j , i 100 = M I k M I 100
for which Equation (17) is a special case when the impact could only be fully present or absent. We think this analysis is helpful for two broad audiences. The first is the corporate community. For it, they can use it to determine which SASB issues are most congruent for them in terms of both doing well and doing good. In particular, since we have mapped the material ESG issues in each industry to the target level of the SDGs. This provides a company a well-structured narrative. It can simply point to its performance on its material ESG issues and the SDG targets for which these issues are relevant.
The second audience is investors. Again, assuming that ESG performance metrics are available, an investor can assess the implications at the target level to the relevant SDGs. The same can be done in a portfolio basis. At both a company and portfolio level, the above caveats apply. To this we would add adjustments based on company size (such as by revenues or market cap) and perhaps the location of their operations. While investors must put investment returns first, they are increasingly recognizing that the system-level impacts of their portfolios will affect their ability to generate these returns over the long term. Important work is being done here by The Investment Integration Project (TIIP), a research service that helps investors to move their level of analysis beyond just portfolios to include the context in which these portfolios exist [30].
In order to serve both audiences, we are looking for ways to provide our detailed mapping in the public domain.
We would like to conclude with one final reflection. If good metrics existed for company performance on their material issues, one could use these ESG measures as proxies for SDG impact. They obviously wouldn’t be impact measures. For the most part, the key performance indicators recommended by SASB are output measures which have outcomes that lead to impacts [9].
True measures of impact are difficult to obtain since they require data from outside the company. Impact measures are about positive and negative externalities being created by a company’s operations. Most work to date on impact measurement has been done in the private markets. Developing methodologies for doing so in the public markets will be important for achieving the SDGs.

Author Contributions

C.C. and R.G.E. conceived and designed the research; G.B. developed the methodology; C.C. conducted the analysis; C.C. and R.G.E. wrote the paper; G.B., C.C. and R.G.E. revised the paper.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A

Table A1. Target Specific Relevance Index (TSRI).
Table A1. Target Specific Relevance Index (TSRI).
SASB General Issue CategorySDG Impacted# of Targets Total# of Targets ImpactedTSRI
Environment
GHG emissions73266.70%
95120.00%
128112.50%
Air quality39444.40%
117114.30%
128225.00%
Energy management39444.40%
733100.00%
95240.00%
128337.50%
133133.30%
Fuel management39444.40%
733100.00%
128337.50%
133133.30%
Water and wastewater management255100.00%
39111.10%
666100.00%
117228.60%
128337.50%
147457.10%
159333.30%
Waste and hazardous materials management39111.10%
66466.70%
810220.00%
117228.60%
128450.00%
147342.90%
159444.40%
Biodiversity impacts25240.00%
66233.30%
117228.60%
128225.00%
147457.10%
159555.60%
Social Capital
Human rights and community relations15240.00%
666100.00%
810550.00%
107342.90%
117228.60%
1610660.00%
Access and affordability 15240.00%
39222.20%
56233.30%
73133.30%
810110.00%
95360.00%
107342.90%
117457.10%
Customer welfare25360.00%
39333.30%
47228.60%
66350.00%
159111.10%
Data security and customer privacy1610110.00%
Fair disclosure and labeling25240.00%
39444.40%
47114.30%
1610110.00%
Fair marketing and advertising15240.00%
25120.00%
39444.40%
47342.90%
Human Capital
Labor relations15240.00%
39444.40%
810770.00%
107342.90%
Fair labor practices15360.00%
39222.20%
56350.00%
66116.70%
810550.00%
107228.60%
1610220.00%
Employee health safety and wellbeing39444.40%
56466.70%
810550.00%
Diversity and inclusion56583.30%
810660.00%
107457.10%
1610220.00%
Compensation and benefits15360.00%
810330.00%
107228.60%
Recruitment development and retention47228.60%
56233.30%
810550.00%
95240.00%
107342.90%
Business Model and Innovation
Lifecycle impacts of products and services39444.40%
66233.30%
733100.00%
810110.00%
95240.00%
117342.90%
128337.50%
133133.30%
147228.60%
159555.60%
1610110.00%
Environmental social impacts on assets & operations15120.00%
25240.00%
39111.10%
66350.00%
73133.30%
95240.00%
117342.90%
133133.30%
159555.60%
Product packaging66233.30%
810110.00%
128112.50%
133133.30%
147114.30%
159444.40%
Product quality and safety25360.00%
39111.10%
128112.50%
159444.40%
Leadership and Governance
Systemic risk management73266.70%
95120.00%
107114.30%
117114.30%
1610220.00%
Accident and safety management15120.00%
39222.20%
66233.30%
810220.00%
128225.00%
147228.60%
159222.20%
Business ethics and transparency of payments1610220.00%
Competitive behavior15360.00%
73266.70%
95240.00%
107228.60%
Regulatory capture and political influence25240.00%
733100.00%
128112.50%
133266.70%
1610440.00%
Materials sourcing39333.30%
56116.70%
66116.70%
810220.00%
128337.50%
133133.30%
159555.60%
1610110.00%
Supply chain management15480.00%
39333.30%
56233.30%
66233.30%
733100.00%
810330.00%
95360.00%
107228.60%
117114.30%
128337.50%
133133.30%
147457.10%
159444.40%
1610110.00%
Table A2. Target ESG Relevance Index (TERI).
Table A2. Target ESG Relevance Index (TERI).
Target# of SASB Issues Impacting the TargetTERI
Target 1.1413.33%
Target 1.2413.33%
Target 1.3310.00%
Target 1.4620.00%
Target 1.5516.67%
Target 2.1413.33%
Target 2.2516.67%
Target 2.326.67%
Target 2.4620.00%
Target 2.5310.00%
Target 3.1826.67%
Target 3.2826.67%
Target 3.313.33%
Target 3.41033.33%
Target 3.5413.33%
Target 3.613.33%
Target 3.726.67%
Target 3.8310.00%
Target 3.91446.67%
Target 4.100.00%
Target 4.200.00%
Target 4.326.67%
Target 4.4310.00%
Target 4.526.67%
Target 4.600.00%
Target 4.713.33%
Target 5.1516.67%
Target 5.2310.00%
Target 5.326.67%
Target 5.426.67%
Target 5.5516.67%
Target 5.613.33%
Target 6.1413.33%
Target 6.2516.67%
Target 6.3930.00%
Target 6.4930.00%
Target 6.526.67%
Target 6.6413.33%
Target 7.1826.67%
Target 7.2723.33%
Target 7.3826.67%
Target 8.1516.67%
Target 8.2310.00%
Target 8.3413.33%
Target 8.4723.33%
Target 8.5826.67%
Target 8.613.33%
Target 8.7413.33%
Target 8.8826.67%
Target 8.9826.67%
Target 8.1000.00%
Target 9.1413.33%
Target 9.2516.67%
Target 9.313.33%
Target 9.4620.00%
Target 9.526.67%
Target 10.1516.67%
Target 10.2723.33%
Target 10.3413.33%
Target 10.4310.00%
Target 10.5310.00%
Target 10.600.00%
Target 10.700.00%
Target 11.1310.00%
Target 11.213.33%
Target 11.326.67%
Target 11.426.67%
Target 11.5620.00%
Target 11.6516.67%
Target 11.700.00%
Target 12.100.00%
Target 12.2930.00%
Target 12.3516.67%
Target 12.41033.33%
Target 12.5723.33%
Target 12.600.00%
Target 12.700.00%
Target 12.800.00%
Target 13.1723.33%
Target 13.226.67%
Target 13.300.00%
Target 14.1723.33%
Target 14.2310.00%
Target 14.3620.00%
Target 14.413.33%
Target 14.513.33%
Target 14.613.33%
Target 14.713.33%
Target 15.1826.67%
Target 15.2826.67%
Target 15.31033.33%
Target 15.4516.67%
Target 15.5723.33%
Target 15.600.00%
Target 15.7310.00%
Target 15.800.00%
Target 15.900.00%
Target 16.113.33%
Target 16.2310.00%
Target 16.313.33%
Target 16.4620.00%
Target 16.5723.33%
Target 16.626.67%
Target 16.726.67%
Target 16.800.00%
Target 16.900.00%
Target 16.1013.33%

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Table 1. The UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Table 1. The UN Sustainable Development Goals.
SDGDescription
SDG 1End poverty in all its forms everywhere
SDG 2End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
SDG 3Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages
SDG 4Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
SDG 5Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
SDG 6Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
SDG 7Ensure access to affordable reliable sustainable and modern energy for all
SDG 8Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
SDG 9Build resilient infrastructure promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
SDG 10Reduce inequality within and among countries
SDG 11Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
SDG 12Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
SDG 13Take urgent action to combat climate change and impacts
SDG 14Conserve and sustainably use the oceans seas and marine resources for sustainable development
SDG 15Protect restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems sustainably manage forests combat desertification and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
SDG 16Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
SDG 17Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Table 2. Targets of SDG 8.
Table 2. Targets of SDG 8.
SDG 8 TargetsDescription
8.1Sustain per capita economic growth in accordance with national circumstances and, in particular, at least 7 per cent gross domestic product growth per annum in the least developed countries
8.2Achieve higher levels of economic productivity through diversification, technological upgrading and innovation, including through a focus on high-value added and labor-intensive sectors
8.3Promote development-oriented policies that support productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalization and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, including through access to financial services
8.4Improve progressively, through 2030, global resource efficiency in consumption and production and endeavor to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation, in accordance with the 10-year framework of programs on sustainable consumption and production, with developed countries taking the lead
8.5By 2030, achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value
8.6By 2020, substantially reduce the proportion of youth not in employment, education or training
8.7Take immediate and effective measures to eradicate forced labor, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labor in all its forms
8.8Protect labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment
8.9By 2030, devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products
8.1Strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance and financial services for all
8.aIncrease Aid for Trade support for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, including through the Enhanced Integrated Framework for Trade-Related Technical Assistance to Least Developed Countries
8.bBy 2020, develop and operationalize a global strategy for youth employment and implement the Global Jobs Pact of the International Labour Organization
Table 3. SDG targets in the analysis.
Table 3. SDG targets in the analysis.
Original SDG targets:169
Less: targets of SDG 17: 19
Less: “resources” targets:43
Number of targets included in the analysis:107
Table 4. Definitions of the calculated indices *.
Table 4. Definitions of the calculated indices *.
SDG Mapping Target Mapping
AcronymFull nameMeasured forDescriptionNumber of Related FormulaAcronymFull nameMeasured forDescriptionNumber of Related Formula
SRISDG relevance IndexEach SASB’s issueNumber of SDG impacted by each SASB’s issue/16(1)TRITarget Relevance IndexEach SASB’s issuesNumber of targets the SDGs impacted by each SASB’s issues /107(2)
TSRITarget Specific Relevance IndexEach SDG impacted by each SASB’s issuesNumber of targets impacted in the single SDG / total number of targets in the SDG(3)
ERIESG Relevance IndexEach SDGNumber of SASB’s issue impacting the SDG/30(4)TERIESG Target Relevance IndexEach targetNumber of SASB’s issue impacting the target/30(5)
TSERITarget Specific ESG Relevance IndexEach SDGAverage of the single TERIs(6)
ISIIIndustry SDG Impact IndexEach SDG in each industryRatio (multiplied by 100) between the number of industry-specific material issues impacting the SDG and the total number of SASB issues impacting the SDG(7)ITIIIndustry Target Impact IndexEach target in each industryRatio (multiplied by 100) between the number of industry specific material issues impacting the target on the total number of SASB issues impacting the target(8)
ISTIIIndustry SDG Target Impact IndexEach SDG and in each industryRatio (multiplied by 100) between the number of industry specific material issues impacting each target in each SDG and the total number of SASB general ESG issues affecting the single Target tj in SDG j(9)
SSIISector SDG Impact IndexEach SDG in each sectorAverage of ISIIs across industries in the sector(10)STIISector Target Impact IndexEach target in each sectorAverage of ITIIs across industries in the sector(11)
SSTIISector SDG Target Impact IndexEach SDG in each sectorAverage of the ISTIIs across industries in the sector(12)
AISIIAverage Industry SDG Impact IndexAll SDGs in each industryAverage of ISIIs of all SDGs(13)AISTIIAverage Industry SDG Target IndexAll SDGs in each industryAverage of the ISTIIs(14)
ASSIIAverage Sector SDG Impact IndexAll SDGs in each SectorAverage of SSIIs of all SDGs(15) ASSTIIAverage Sector SDG Target IndexAll SDGs in each sectorAverage of the SSTIIs(16)
* The secondary indices are in italics.
Table 5. SDG Relevance Index (SRI) and Target Relevance Index (TRI).
Table 5. SDG Relevance Index (SRI) and Target Relevance Index (TRI).
SASB General Issue Category# of SDGs Impacted#of Targets ImpactedSRITRI
Environment
GHG emissions3418.75%3.74%
Air quality3718.75%6.54%
Energy management51331.25%12.15%
Fuel management41125.00%10.28%
Water and wastewater management72443.75%22.43%
Waste and hazardous materials management72043.75%18.69%
Biodiversity impacts61737.50%15.89%
Social Capital
Human rights and community relations62437.50%22.43%
Access and affordability91856.25%16.82%
Customer welfare51231.25%11.21%
Data security and customer privacy116.25%0.93%
Fair disclosure and labeling4825.00%7.48%
Fair marketing and advertising41025.00%9.35%
Human Capital
Labor relations41625.00%14.95%
Fair labor practices71843.75%16.82%
Employee health safety and wellbeing31318.75%12.15%
Diversity and inclusion41725.00%15.89%
Compensation and benefits3818.75%7.48%
Recruitment development and retention51431.25%13.08%
Business Model and Innovation
Lifecycle impacts of products and services112768.75%25.23%
Environmental social impacts on assets & operations 1956.25%17.76%
Product packaging61037.50%9.35%
Product quality and safety4925.00%8.41%
Leadership and Governance
Systemic risk management5731.25%6.54%
Accident and safety management71343.75%12.15%
Business ethics and transparency of payments126.25%1.87%
Competitive behavior4925.00%8.41%
Regulatory capture and political influence51231.25%11.21%
Materials sourcing81750.00%15.89%
Supply chain management143687.50%33.64%
Table 6. SDG Relevance Index and Target Relevance Index for each SASB dimension.
Table 6. SDG Relevance Index and Target Relevance Index for each SASB dimension.
EnvironmentSocial CapitalHuman CapitalBusiness Model and InnovationLeadership and Governance
SRI31.25%30.21%27.08%46.88%39.29%
TRI12.82%11.37%13.40%15.19%12.82%
Table 7. ESG Relevance Index (ERI) and Target Specific ESG Relevance Index (TSERI).
Table 7. ESG Relevance Index (ERI) and Target Specific ESG Relevance Index (TSERI).
SDG# of SASB’s Issues Impacting the SDGERITSERI
SDG 11137%15%
SDG 21033%13%
SDG 31860%19%
SDG 4413%4%
SDG 5723%10%
SDG 61343%18%
SDG 71033%26%
SDG 81447%16%
SDG 9930%12%
SDG 101033%10%
SDG 111033%9%
SDG 121550%13%
SDG 13930%10%
SDG 14927%10%
SDG 15840%15%
SDG 161137%8%
Table 8. Industry SDG Impact Index (ISII) for the biotechnology industry.
Table 8. Industry SDG Impact Index (ISII) for the biotechnology industry.
SDG        ISIISDG        ISII
SDG4     75.00SDG2     50.00
SDG11   60.00SDG8      50.00
SDG5     57.14SDG12    42.86
SDG14   57.14SDG1      40.00
SDG3     55.56SDG7      40.00
SDG9     55.56SDG10    40.00
SDG15   54.55SDG13    37.50
SDG6     53.85SDG16    36.36
Table 9. Industry Target Impact Index (ITII) for the biotechnology industry.
Table 9. Industry Target Impact Index (ITII) for the biotechnology industry.
Biotechnology Industry
SDG 8 TargetsITII
Target 8.6100.00
Target 8.350.00
Target 8.550.00
Target 8.750.00
Target 8.850.00
Target 8.950.00
Target 8.442.86
Target 8.140.00
Target 8.20.00
Target 8.10n.a. *
* None of SASB’s issues impact target 8.10 and so the ITII cannot be calculated.
Table 10. Industry SDG Target Impact Index (ISTII) for the Biotechnology Industry.
Table 10. Industry SDG Target Impact Index (ISTII) for the Biotechnology Industry.
Biotechnology Industry
SDG     ISTIISDG      ISTII
SDG1    40.91SDG2     60.00
SDG3    52.94SDG4     87.50
SDG5    55.55SDG6     66.66
SDG7    43.48SDG8     45.83
SDG9    66.66SDG10   50.00
SDG11   68.42SDG12   54.83
SDG13   33.33SDG14   65.00
SDG15   48.78SDG16   43.47
Table 11. Sector Target Impact Index (STII) for the health care sector.
Table 11. Sector Target Impact Index (STII) for the health care sector.
Health Care Sector
SDG 8 TargetsSTII
Target 8.6 33.33
Target 8.4 30.95
Target 8.1 26.67
Target 8.9 25
Target 8.3 20.83
Target 8.5 20.83
Target 8.8 20.83
Target 8.7 16.67
Target 8.2 0
Target 8.10 n.a. *
* None of SASB’s issues impact target 8.10 and so the STII cannot be calculated.
Table 12. Sector SDG Impact Index (SSII) and Sector SDG Target Impact Index (SSTII).
Table 12. Sector SDG Impact Index (SSII) and Sector SDG Target Impact Index (SSTII).
Panel A: Sector SDG Impact Index (SSII)
SDG #1SDG #2SDG #3SDG #4SDG #5SDG #6SDG #7SDG #8SDG #9SDG #10SDG #11SDG #12SDG #13SDG #14SDG #15SDG #16
HEALTHCARE25.0039.5839.8154.1733.3338.4631.6729.7638.8921.6738.3329.7633.3335.7140.9128.79
FINANCIALS20.0017.8611.1125.0010.2012.0920.0010.2022.2221.4318.572.047.144.0810.3919.48
TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION11.678.3320.3712.5030.9519.2326.6723.8135.1925.0021.6722.6225.0026.1921.2127.27
NON- RENEWABLES RESOURCES20.0026.5630.560.0016.0731.7330.0025.0026.3912.5041.2543.7523.4448.2134.0917.05
TRANSPORTATION15.006.2523.616.2516.0716.3522.5019.6419.4410.0015.0028.5718.7523.2120.459.09
SERVICES15.0018.7517.7827.5018.5713.8515.0015.7116.6716.0011.0015.7115.0015.7114.5416.36
RESOURCE TRANSFORMATION8.0020.0034.445.0020.0029.2332.0025.7133.336.0030.0045.7142.5042.8641.8225.45
CONSUMPTION16.0033.3330.0033.3326.6627.1823.3320.9523.7014.6718.6732.3838.3331.4336.3623.03
RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGIES13.3318.7522.220.0021.4330.7723.3322.6222.2210.0033.3332.1433.3330.9528.7917.05
INFRASTRUCTURE12.5020.3122.926.258.9325.0026.2516.9626.396.2531.2523.2125.0032.1427.2714.77
Panel B: Sector SDG Target Impact Index (STII)
SDG #1SDG #2SDG #3SDG #4SDG #5SDG #6SDG #7SDG #8SDG #9SDG #10SDG #11SDG #12SDG #13SDG #14SDG #15SDG #16
HEALTHCARE24.2444.1737.2556.2528.7040.9131.1622.2246.3027.2745.6136.0229.6337.5038.2124.64
FINANCIALS18.8315.7114.2932.1412.7011.2618.638.3323.8118.1824.065.9911.115.7114.6317.39
TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION19.7018.3319.9312.5034.2622.7328.9926.0434.2626.5223.6827.9622.2230.0021.9518.12
NON- RENEWABLES RESOURCES22.7335.6328.100.0020.1443.9432.0723.7024.3113.0740.7945.9726.3955.0033.8421.20
TRANSPORTATION14.206.8826.726.2519.4414.3925.0019.5316.679.0914.4728.2316.6720.6319.825.43
SERVICES19.5523.0020.9833.7521.6716.9718.2617.7117.7815.9111.0517.7416.6717.5015.6113.48
RESOURCE TRANSFORMATION10.9125.0033.735.0016.6730.3036.5215.8333.335.4532.6349.6835.5641.0044.3916.04
CONSUMPTION21.5236.6730.7237.5024.0728.0829.2818.6127.7815.4517.5435.2735.5634.6736.4214.78
RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGIES10.6120.8324.180.0021.3028.7923.9117.0123.159.8531.5835.4829.6335.8332.5218.84
INFRASTRUCTURE7.9525.0023.046.2512.5028.7926.6312.7625.006.2536.8426.2123.6131.2528.0513.04
Table 13. Average Industry SDG Impact Index (AISII) and Average Industry SDG Target Impact Index (AISTII) for the health care sector.
Table 13. Average Industry SDG Impact Index (AISII) and Average Industry SDG Target Impact Index (AISTII) for the health care sector.
IndustryAISIIAISTII
Biotechnology50.3453.69
Pharmaceuticals50.3453.69
Medical Equipment45.6045.57
Health Care Delivery29.9525.62
Health Care Distribution15.0014.29
Managed Care18.4613.79
Table 14. Average Sector SDG Impact Index (ASSII) and Average Sector SDG Target Impact Index (ASSTII).
Table 14. Average Sector SDG Impact Index (ASSII) and Average Sector SDG Target Impact Index (ASSTII).
SectorASSIIASTII
HEALTHCARE34.9534.44
FINANCIALS14.4914.00
TECHNOLOGY & COMMUNICATION22.3524.22
NON- RENEWABLES RESOURCES26.6630.60
TRANSPORTATION16.8918.10
SERVICES16.4518.05
RESOURCE TRANSFORMATION26.9928.42
CONSUMPTION26.8427.37
RENEWABLE RESOURCES AND ALTERNATIVE ENERGIES22.9723.81
INFRASTRUCTURE20.3421.40

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