SDG Ambition Benchmarks

The UN Global Compact Network UK is calling on all companies to turn ambition into action by implementing the SDG Ambition Benchmarks across their organisation.

Determining the starting point for your company’s efforts to advance the 2030 Agenda and implement the 17 Sustainable Development Goals may seem like a challenging task.

The UN Global Compact, in consultation with business leaders and partner organisations, has developed 12 SDG Ambition Benchmarks, to simplify the task and translate ambition into action. The benchmarks include clear pathways and sample actions for companies to take.

They focus on the areas of the SDGs where the private sector could have the greatest impact and create significant momentum in global efforts to achieve the Goals by 2030. These include gender equality (Goal 5), climate action (Goal 13), waste and circular economy (Goal 12), and corruption (Goal 16).

You can download the SDG Ambition Benchmarks reference sheets here.


1.  Commit to reaching gender equality at all levels of management

Evidence consistently shows that women’s full and equal participation in the workplace makes financial sense and leads to economic and social benefits. Use the pathways and metrics in the Gender Balance at all Levels of Management Benchmark as an action plan for your company.

The pathways include addressing discrimination in remuneration, retention and progression, and recruitment. Example actions include introducing policies that address systemic barriers to inclusion such as flexible work plans, or requiring candidate pools and interview panels to be gender balanced.

Benchmark 1 - Gender Balance 1

2.  Focus on equal pay for work of equal value

The Gender Pay Gap has gone a long way in helping us understand the pay differences across a business, but it doesn’t tell us if women are being remunerated at the same rate when their work is equal in value to that of their male peers. The UN Global Compact published a new SDG Ambition Benchmark on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value in 2023. As with gender balance at all levels of management, this benchmark provides you with a set of actional pathways to ensure fair remuneration in your company.

Banner SDG 5 Equal Pay for work of equal value

Join our Target Gender Equality Accelerator to get help and guidance on implementing the benchmarks in your organisation. Our Target Gender Equality Accelerator is a nine-month course for companies to equip you to set your own ambitious and realistic corporate targets. Learn more here.

3. Set science-based target reductions in line with a 1.5°C pathway

Companies can address stakeholder expectations, increase competitiveness, and anticipate regulatory, policy and market developments by setting science-based emissions reduction targets. These targets have rapidly become the most effective way for companies to align their corporate goals with the Paris Agreement, limiting warming to 1.5°C, and demonstrating their climate action credentials.

Organisations can use the Science-based Emissions Reduction in Line with a 1.5°C Pathway Benchmark metrics and pathways to implement these targets within their company. Adopting this benchmark helps business assess their operations against the latest climate science, validated by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). Pathways include greenhouse gas reductions and compensation. Example actions include mandating investment to scale natural CO2 removal and carbon capture, and assigning financial value to emissions from business activity to drive reductions.

Benchmark - Climate Action 3

To receive further guidance on science based targets and accelerate your progress towards setting and achieving your targets, join our Climate Ambition Accelerator programme.

4. Pay 100% of employees a living wage

This benchmark calls businesses to pay all their employees — regardless of their employment status — a living wage. A living wage is defined as ‘the remuneration received for a standard workweek by a worker in a particular place sufficient to afford a decent standard of living for the worker and her or his dependents’.

Achieving this target requires that all departments of companies develop and incorporate different elements of a fair compensation policy. Developing these policies can be achieved through the 100% of Employees Across the Organisation Earn a Living Wage Benchmark pathways, which include evaluating wage policies and scaling policy outreach beyond direct employees. Example actions include adjustments to wage levels, ongoing monitoring, and engaging with contractors and suppliers on their wage and compensation policies.

Learn more

In March 2022, we presented a 5-part SDG Benchmarks webinar series to guide organisations through an impact-oriented roadmap for business transformation. The UN Global Compact's SDG Business Benchmarks are the perfect gateway for companies seeking to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) into their core strategies. The Benchmarks translate the ambition level of the SDGs into concrete, achievable aspirations for business in the areas that are most relevant to business.

Speakers from Unilever, Nestle UK, HH Global, Diageo, The Co-op, and many others, provided their insights on the following topics: SDG Benchmarks Overview; Gender Balance at all Management Levels; Zero Waste and the Circular Economy; 100% Employees with Labour Rights and Earning Living Wage; and Science-based Emission Reduction Aligned with 1.5°C. Click below to access the recordings >>>

SDG Benchmarks Overview