How SDG impact standards are shaping sustainable business globally: Results from Comillas Social Impact Chair’s report

Comillas Social Impact Chair think tank in Madrid, Spain launched a new publication “Proposals for Measuring and Managing Social Impact: Managing to Maximise Impact”
How SDG impact standards are shaping sustainable business globally: Results from Comillas Social Impact Chair’s report

The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) SDG Impact Standards empower organizations to seamlessly integrate sustainability, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and managing impact at the core of internal management and decision-making. These Standards continue to redefine the landscape of sustainable business, offering a robust framework for companies committed to responsible and impactful practices. 

Comillas Social Impact Chair think tank in Madrid, Spain recently launched a new publication “Proposals for Measuring and Managing Social Impact: Managing to Maximise Impact” on 24 April, highlighting this transformative journey. The publication underlined the need for organizations to adopt robust impact management practices in response to global eco-social challenges, focusing on creating a culture of evidence-based decision-making to optimize effects on people and the planet. It outlined a systematic approach involving a management cycle that integrates strategic planning, evidence analysis, and transparent communication, all guided by external frameworks like the SDGs and internal theories of change. 

The report mentioned the European Union's regulatory efforts to promote sustainable finance and corporate responsibility, aiming to accelerate the shift towards an impact economy and foster a shared culture of impact management to address systemic risks effectively. It also highlighted SDG Impact Standards’ progress and achievements: 

 

Fundación Repsol’s SDG Impact Standards-based tool

Launched in 2019, Fundación Repsol's Repsol Impacto Social initiative strategically invests in enterprises that foster a green and inclusive economy, supporting the energy transition and inclusion of vulnerable groups. Beneficiaries like Recycling4all, Sylvestris, Koiki, Hispaled, and GNE Finance receive both financial and substantial non-financial support to enhance their capabilities and growth.

Operating under a Theory of Change aligned with the SDGs, Repsol Impacto Social, in partnership with the Social Impact Chair, initiated a pilot project in 2023 with Hispaled, a leader in LED lighting solutions in Spain. This collaboration produced a management and measurement tool based on the SDG Impact Standards, designed for effective impact planning and decision-making. This tool includes an innovative indicator to quantify social value in monetary terms, greatly enhancing transparency and accountability in impact reporting.

 

Research recommendations on using SDG Impact Standards 

The publication featured the research by Gaggiotti, Giaconcelli, Picón Martínez and Rojas in 2023, providing a nuanced understanding of how organizations can engage with the SDGs through three distinct approaches. The research outlined strategies ranging from simple alignment, which focuses on measuring impact without managing it, to "SDG Action" which identifies impact gaps without actively managing them, and finally to "SDG Optimization." This most advanced approach integrates SDGs into organizational strategies and operations with external verification. The research recommended the adoption of the SDG Impact Standards to help organizations better integrate SDGs into decision-making and deal with some of the perceived challenges of aligning/integrating SDGs into practice, as well as to avoid SDG washing.  

 

Think Tank Insights: Adoption and perspectives on the SDG Impact Standards

The publication also offered a comprehensive view of the current adoption of management standards among the Comillas Social Impact Chair’s members. The data reveals that 18% of the think tank members are utilizing the SDG Impact Standards, which is higher compared to 16% using B Corp standards and 11% adhering to SVI principles.

The report further highlighted that while some organizations lack the knowledge or capacity to implement standards, there is a significant interest in adopting the SDG Impact Standards, with 82% considering their incorporation. This indicated a strong potential for broader adoption and underscored the need for enhanced training and support to fully realize the benefits of such frameworks.

 

Event highlights and the way forward

At the report launch event, key stakeholders, including Fabienne Michaux, Director of the UNDP SDG Impact and representatives from the European Commission and the Spanish Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, emphasized the critical role of impact management in achieving sustainability and the SDGs. The event not only showcased the collective efforts in promoting sustainable practices but also stressed the necessity of a paradigm shift in how organizations perceive and manage their impact.

As businesses and institutions globally continue to navigate the complexities of sustainable development, the UNDP’s SDG Impact Standards provide a crucial toolkit for embedding sustainable practices into core business strategies. 

The integration of the SDG Impact Standards into business operations is not just about compliance or marketing but about fundamentally transforming how companies operate and influence the world. By prioritizing sustainability and impact, organizations are not only enhancing their operational effectiveness but also contributing positively to societal and environmental outcomes, inspiring a global movement towards more responsible and impactful business practices.