Source: UNDP Tanzania, UNDP SDG Impact
Photo by Tom Arran on Unsplash

UN HLEG Recommendations on the Net Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities incorporated into UNDP SDG Impact Standards Guidance

Both are aligned in their level of ambition and ultimate goal to secure a sustainable future

The UNDP SDG Impact Standards Guidance has incorporated the UN HLEG Recommendations on the Net Zero Emissions of commitments of Non-State Entities. The SDG Impact Standards Guidance is designed to be evolutionary to incorporate new best-practices and lessons learned. It is a supporting resource for practitioners adopting the SDG Impact Standards (“the Standards”). The Standards are a decision-making framework to help private sector organizations integrate sustainability and the SDGs into their management practices in a holistic and systematic way. There are Standards for enterprises, private equity funds and bond issuers. 

The UN HLEG Recommendations were published in November 2022 in its report, Integrity Matters: Net Zero Commitments by Businesses, Financial Institutions, Cities and Regions. The report sets out five principles and ten recommendations to create a universal definition of net zero and standardises net zero pledges for non-state entities.

It was published in response to the increasing number of net zero pledges made by private sector organizations that are not translating them into action at the rate required to achieve an orderly and just transition to net zero by 2050. It re-emphasized that global warming has the potential to undermine all other aspects of sustainable development. Climate action is therefore urgent and central to broader sustainability goals. 

The SDG Impact Standards complement the UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations and can help organizations implement them

The UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations are focused on managing the just transition to Net Zero. In the context of the SDG Impact Standards, the UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations provide specificity on the detail behind what “operating within planetary boundaries in line with science-based targets” needs to look like, to get the world to net zero by 2050.

The Standards, on the other hand, complement the UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations by providing detail on how to manage the interdependencies of all the SDGs, internal cultural alignment and integration across an organization’s strategy, management, disclosure, and governance decision-making practices – upon which the achievement of net zero commitments depend.  

The Standards make it easier for organizations to recognise and manage the interconnectedness and trade-offs across social, environmental, and economic outcomes. They also acknowledge how an organization’s contribution to impacts on people and planet, in the same vein, are needed for creating and sustaining value in the long term.  

The Standards have been designed to showcase how an organization fits into the wider economic ecosystem. Global climate goals must therefore be a collective effort rather than take on an atomistic approach. Crucially, they also guide organizations to address existing social, economic inequalities and issues relating to a just transition.

The SDG Impact Standards and the UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations are also very well aligned, including:

•    Treating climate, alongside gender equality and decent work, as a cross-cutting issue and always material, as mandated by the UN HLEG Net Zero Recommendations. 

•    Respect for human rights in line with the UN Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights and other responsible business practices in line with the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles and the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles. 

•    Respect for indigenous rights. This includes aligning advocacy, research and development, skills and human resource development, governance, business strategies, capital expenditures, and incentive structures and executive compensation with commitments.

•    Focus on alignment of commitments and intentions throughout the organization, including 

•    Recognition of the need for different ways of working – exploring new business models, partnerships, collaboration with governments and collective action through associations etc.  

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