New research reveals UK SMEs are worryingly unaware of UN Sustainability Goals

29 June 2022

  • Just 18% of UK SMEs are aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, despite making up 99% of UK businesses
  • Over half of large businesses in the UK are also unaware of the SDGs
  • Hospitality and Leisure, Education and Media/Comms/Sales revealed as the lowest scoring industries in terms of awareness

New YouGov research commissioned by business improvement and standards company, BSI has revealed the lack of awareness of the UN Sustainable Development Goals by UK businesses. Only 18% of UK SMEs said they were aware of the goals, despite making up 99% of all UK organizations. Over half (54%) of larger organizations (250+ employees) were unaware.

The outputs question the resilience of UK businesses and follow earlier research from BSI that revealed only a fifth of decision makers are fully aware of what carbon net zero targets mean in practice for their organization.

Murray Sayce, Global Head of Sustainability Solutions for BSI’s Assurance business says, “It is imperative that businesses of every nature and size understand the importance of sustainability in their operating model if they are going to survive into the future. This data, which also shows that almost 40% of organizations have no established sustainability goals, indicates a massive knowledge and implementation gap that needs to be filled.

“We know that most businesses want to do the right thing, indeed 72% consider it important to work with sustainable supply chains and 47% actively work with independently verified sustainable suppliers. But they need more guidance on how to set sustainability related targets and how to achieve them.”

To help with this, BSI has launched a sustainability evaluator tool to assist organizations in assessing and evaluating progress on their sustainability journeys. The tool, which was developed by BSI and can be accessed for free, provides helpful insight about how organizations can make progress towards their sustainability goals.

Further data from BSI’s research showed that Hospitality and Leisure, Education and Media/Comms/Sales were the lowest scoring industries in terms of awareness of the UN SDGs, with Manufacturing, Medical and Health Services and IT and Telecoms scoring highest. Start-up businesses have more awareness than comparable established businesses, and younger workforces enjoy more awareness than their older counterparts.

Sustainability and assurance experts at BSI will be hosting a series of webinars throughout the year to support organizations working towards the SDG goals on the following topics:

  • Carbon Neutrality
  • Health Safety and Wellbeing
  • Waste Management
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Sustainable Events
  • Sustainable Infrastructure

For more information on BSI’s sustainability evaluator tool and upcoming related webinars visit

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