Halfway to 2030: Dutch organisations becoming more engaged with Sustainable Development Goals

Since the 2015 adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 deadline, the first Dutch national SDG Barometer study shows that there is a lot to be optimistic about. 

The SDG Barometer provides important insights into the adoption and implementation of the SDGs by Dutch organisations, and at the same time, it is a call to action to all organisations to deliver on the SDGs. 

Positive trends

In 2022, the vast majority (91%) of the 316 participating Dutch organisations are familiar with the SDGs. Only two percent do not pay any attention at all to sustainability. In addition, 76% of organisations pay more attention to sustainability compared to two years ago and 64% of the responding organisations will take the SDGs (far) more into account in the next two years. Interestingly, 72% of organisations reported that the pandemic did not cause them to pay less attention to the SDGs.

91% of Dutch organisations are familiar with the SDGs

Another reason for optimism is that sustainability and the SDGs seem to have become the responsibility of senior management. In almost half of the responding organisations, SDG-related initiatives were a responsibility of senior managers, a member of the management team or a member of the executive board. Clearly, sustainability is no longer a ’peripheral issue’.

But...with a lot of variance

However, the SDG Barometer study also found that there is still a lot of variance. Sustainability laggards are the next-door neighbours of sustainability leaders. For example, 9% of organisations are not at all familiar with the SDGs. 12% of organisations do not have a sustainability strategy and 11% have not integrated the SDGs and is not planning to do so. 14% of organisations did not take the SDGs into account when developing strategies and policies. In terms of ’sustainability maturity’, 21% found they were in a (very) low phase of maturity. Also, a majority of organisations (76%) perform only a limited assessment (or none at all) of the impact of their SDG initiatives.

11% of Dutch organisations have not integrated the SDGs and are not planning to do so

Challenges remain

Beginning the second half of the journey towards 2030, important challenges remain. Organisations still find it difficult to embed sustainability and the SDGs in their overall strategy. Measurement remains a challenge and the focus on a limited number of SDGs (thereby ’ignoring’ SDGs such as SDG 2 ’Zero Hunger’ and SDG 14 ’Life under water’) continues to be a cause for concern.

Sharing best practices and role for government

Interestingly, eight out of ten organisations find that the government should assume a more active role by stimulating organisations to adopt the SDGs, actively use its purchasing power, and create a supportive regulatory context. We also need to become better at sharing best practices. And while every organisation needs to develop a sustainability strategy that fits its own specific needs, there is still a lot we can learn from each other’s experiences. Education al institutions can play a pivotal role in creating a platform where organisations can share actionable insights.

There is a lot to learn from each other’s experiences

Halfway there?

Unfortunately, today’s external environment is not helping. At the halfway mark towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the world is in turmoil. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are confronted with the economic and social consequences of the war in Ukraine. Inflation and the possibility of a recession are putting pressure on many organisations’ commitment to sustainability.

However, with time running out, all organisations need to step up their efforts to realise the 2030 Agenda. The SDGs have been accepted as a ’universal language’ to talk about sustainability in both the private and public sector. But now, more than ever, is a time to transform talk into action.

It is time to transform talk into action

You can download the full report  here.

About the SDG Barometer

At the United Nations (UN) General Assembly in September 2015, 193 countries adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Netherlands is among the 193 countries that have ratified the SDGs.

Having reached the halfway mark between the 2015 adoption of the Agenda and the 2030 ’deadline’, the Dutch SDG Barometer is the first national survey on the adoption and implementation of sustainability and the SDGs by Dutch organisations. In 2022, of the 316 Dutch organisations who participated in the online survey, corporations represented the largest group of respondents (69%), followed by educational institutions (13%), governmental (9%) and not-for-profit organisations (9%).

Following the Belgian initiative, the Dutch SDG Barometer is a longitudinal research study executed by:

  • Amsterdam School of International Business (AMSIB Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences)
  • Maastricht School of Management (Maastricht University)
  • TIAS School for Business and Society (Tilburg University and Eindhoven University of Technology).

The survey will be repeated on a biennial basis to continue monitoring progress, or lack thereof.