If there were any doubts that Portuguese companies are aware and deeply committed to embracing sustainability topics, these were dissipated on the last 1st of June.

The Observatory of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Portuguese companies, a project developed by the Center for Responsible Business and Leadership, held its first event open to the public: SDG Meetings: Beyond the Theory.  

With a room filled with representatives from large, medium, and small companies and participants from the public and social sectors, the event focused on discussing and, essentially, bringing sustainability issues into practice through corporate strategies.

From this event, three topics can be highlighted so we can better understand how companies in Portugal are implementing their sustainability strategies.

1. Firstly, and through the ongoing study of the Observatory, we reiterate the conclusion that Portuguese companies are aligned with sustainability and want to implement more sustainable strategies. However, they are still falling short of their implementation objectives. The main barrier to doing more is a lack of knowledge about how to operationalize their sustainability agendas. Therefore, companies ask, in a very concrete way, for more sharing of good practices, tools, and more help for action.

2. The topic of "compliance" is fundamental for large companies but is still distant for small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). For regulatory and market reasons, large companies will lose their license to operate if they do not embrace sustainability strategies. SMEs, in turn, still do not feel the pressure of sustainability so evidently, whether due to market or regulatory requirements. However, as emphasized by the SMEs in the final panel (OLIMEC and Fábrica de Papel Ponte Redonda), sustainability is a differentiating factor and a competitive factor in national and international markets. Sometimes it is even a determining factor for closing some deals.

Of note on this topic is that 60% of large companies are aware of their legal reporting obligations for the near future, while SMEs are still unaware of this legislation (CSRD) which will affect them, albeit indirectly.

3. Companies seek to deepen, in practice, the themes of sustainability implementation and reporting (most frequented workshops in this event). Implementation is essential to incorporate sustainability practices into the core and day-to-day activities of the business and generate a business case. Reporting, in turn, is essential for transparently communicating what they do on these topics and monitoring progress. With the audit of the report on environmental and social issues underway, it is therefore increasingly important that the Portuguese private sector is prepared to embrace these challenges and compete from Portugal to the world.

This sharing and practice event was another step towards fulfilling the goals of the Observatory of the SDGs in Portuguese companies. A project dedicated to generating knowledge about how companies implement their SDG strategies, share good practices, and accelerate this business agenda in Portugal. Specific data on SMEs and sustainability in Portugal were also shared during the event.

The following steps include the launch of a new Report on companies and the SDGs in Portugal (expected for the last quarter of 2023) and more support to companies in what are practical actions to achieve the sustainability challenges in their business. The first report, launched last year, can be accessed here.

Portuguese companies are aligned with sustainability and want to implement more sustainable strategies but still fall short of their implementation goals. Portugal is a top country in implementing the SDG Agenda in the world (20th global position).

Therefore, it is only with the crucial role of companies that we can keep progressing as a country and as a society, aiming for true prosperity that benefits all.

Have a great and impactful week!

Filipa Pires de Almeida
Deputy Director at the Center for Responsible Business & Leadership

This article refers to edition 194 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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