City of London skyline

The Leonardo Centre at Imperial College Business School is using innovative data science techniques to track and understand how global businesses are adopting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 12) 

 
The UN SDGs have been ratified by 193 governments around the world, each committed to achieving all 17 of these targets by 2030 – through action plans, national legislation and budgets.
 
But the SDGs cannot be achieved without a transformational change from business and a fundamental revision of the very purpose of business. That’s the view of Professor Maurizio Zollo who leads the Leonardo Centre.  
 
“Why firms exist needs to be redefined in terms of the creation of value, not just economic value, but also social human value and well-being: for employees, customers, suppliers and communities as well as investors,” he says.  
 
Professor Zollo has been researching these issues for well over a decade. With the introduction of the SDGs in 2016 came an opportunity to create a database to record and understand how companies are attempting, and in some cases succeeding, in meeting the SDGs. This is done through the collaborative, multi-institute Global Organisation Learning and Developing Network (GOLDEN).  
 
Professor Zollo and his team has forged links with other institutes and centres around the College, particularly the Data Science Institute, and used techniques including natural language processing, artificial intelligence and machine learning to interrogate the GOLDEN database.  
 
The group has so far analysed around 100,000 sustainability reports published over 12 years by 13,000 companies, and from that extracted about five million sustainability initiatives of various different types.  
 
Professor Zollo says: “We hope to be able to show the types of initiatives implemented by companies that can help the whole country to move more rapidly towards the delivery of SDGs. That has never been done before.”