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A New Approach to Evaluating Company Performance on the SDGs

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In life and in business, setting goals and measuring progress is core to solving complex problems and achieving desired outcomes. At AMD, we embrace this every day when designing semiconductor processors and solutions that power high-performance technology to help solve some of the world’s toughest challenges. Core to our approach is the notion of creating “shared value,” which links business success with societal progress. I have seen how the dual lens of goal setting and shared value at AMD has helped us to spot gaps and prioritize initiatives across our supply chain, employee engagement, renewable energy, and product energy efficiency.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) stand out as a leading global framework for pursuing a more sustainable and equitable future. Complex issues are distilled into 17 overarching goals for the year 2030, ranging from industry and infrastructure to climate action and quality education. Companies have expressed large-scale support for meeting the SDGs, which represent business opportunities of over $12 trillion USD and 380 million jobs. However, the SDGs were chiefly designed to inform government policies rather than set business strategies, so difficulties remain on how to effectively and efficiently use the SDGs to effect corporate action and gauge shared value creation.

At AMD, we are pleased to join a unique collaboration aiming to address this challenge through development of the Trucost SDG Evaluation Tool.  Trucost is an affiliate of the S&P Dow Jones Indices and a primary gatherer of financial and environmental, social and governance (ESG) data that companies publicly report. They have formed an advisory council of investors, nonprofits, and twelve participating companies to lead the inaugural launch of the tool. The aim is to develop a practical and actionable way to quantify corporate risks and opportunities related to the SDGs.

I see three important, prospective aspects of the Trucost SDG Evaluation Tool that could potentially bolster corporate adoption of the SDGs.

  • Use of publicly available information. An early hurdle for companies can be dedicating resources to gather necessary data and evaluating alignment with the SDGs. This new tool intends to utilize publicly available information that companies are already disclosing. Where disclosure gaps exist, Trucost plans to use its immense datasets combined with algorithms and customized modeling to adjust for sector type, business model, geographical operations, and more. Of course, assumptions, no matter how well informed, inject some level of uncertainty and potential bias in the modeling, so mitigating this risk is a focus area for the advisory council.
  • A view across the value chain. Robustly measuring a company’s SDG impacts can be very challenging, especially regarding indirect impacts such as second and third tier suppliers or end of life phase. It is not feasible to expect most companies to gather all this data. Even if companies did gather and disclose indirect impacts, the approaches would likely have inconsistencies, which raises the next potential benefit of the tool.

  • A consistent measuring stick. Producing a standardized and comparable corporate level assessment of SDG performance would prove valuable to numerous stakeholders. It would provide companies with a practical and actionable way to track performance trends over time, as well as conduct industry benchmarking. It could also help stakeholders, including investors, governments and non-profits, identify companies and sectors with greater risk or opportunities related to certain SDGs, including regional-level assessments.

If successful, the Trucost SDG Evaluation Tool could provide the first quantitative and scalable analysis of corporate performance on the SDGs. Time will tell if this ambitious initiative will achieve the desired outcomes. If so, the SDGs could get a bolster of engagement from the private sector as impacts would be measurable and advances empirically quantified.

At AMD, we look forward to collaborating with leading organizations on the inaugural launch of the Trucost SDG Evaluation Tool and continuing to focus on our sustainability goals and shared value generation.

Justin Murrill is AMD’s Head of Corporate Responsibility. His postings are his own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions. Links to third party sites are provided for convenience and unless explicitly stated, AMD is not responsible for the contents of such linked sites and no endorsement is implied.

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