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Sector associations have potential to raise sustainability impact through increased collaboration

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

PwC and CSR Europe have completed a study to assess Maturity and Integration of Sustainability in European Sector Associations. The study includes a survey and interviews of 16 sector associations from 11 different industry sectors from manufacturing to retail.

Main key findings are:

  • Sustainability is embedded across sectors, but maturity levels vary, suggesting hesitation to take action and a lack of a common purpose. While 100 % of associations regularly discuss sustainability at Board meetings, only 50% set specific targets
  • Sectors see a wide range of risks and opportunities linked to the 17 SDGs.
  • There is a real gap between Board Vision and activity levels, threatening economic success if not closed. On average, 72% of associations embed sustainability on a strategic level, just 35% however put those policies into practice in the form of impact projects.
  • Sector associations can improve in following areas to close the gap: increase collaboration, improve education and communicate

Impact through collaboration

Collaboration is vital to pursue the systemic changes needed in society and within business to achieve the SDGs. Sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships have the potential to raise the integration of sustainability on the agenda.’ says Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe.

Recommended actions are therefore to:

  • Develop robust sectorial SDG roadmaps
  • Top CEOs to set vision an rally others
  • Initiate cross-sector collaboration
  • Encourage policy to drive sector activity

Speaking ahead of the report launch at the Brussels SDG conference, Linda Midgley, PwC Sustainability and Responsible Governance specialist, commented:

“While it’s widely acknowledged that business support is critical to achieving overall SDG success, there remains some uncertainty within the business world on how to engage with them – and where to start.

“Our research highlights the leading role that sector organisations can play, acting as educators and conveners, creating platforms that encourage their members to work together to develop solutions to the challenges presented by the SDGs. However, our analysis also showed that across sector organisations serving similar industry groups, there is some divergence in engagement and levels of SDG maturity – and it’s vital we see greater improvement, consistency in approach and collaboration if they are to truly meet their members’ needs.”

Download full Report

Download Executive Summary


Pascale Wauters – CSR Europe : or mobile: +32 (0) 2 541 16 13

Lynn Hunter – PwC: or mobile: 07841 570487