Are we in the midst of an SDG-wash? A critical take on corporate engagement with the SDGs

CBS Sustainability Seminar Series with GRB Fellow Dr. Amanda Williams (ETH Zurich), facilitated by Assistant Professor Lara Anne Hale.

Thursday, May 2, 2019 - 11:00 to 13:00

Since their adoption in September 2015, the SDGs have spread quickly as a framework to convene diverse stakeholders and establish a common language to drive action towards the 17 goals. Policymakers and scientists increasingly highlight the critical role of companies for achieving the SDGs, arguing that the leadership and innovative capacity of the private sector is essential for achieving the SDGs (Sachs, 2012). Consequently, calls upon the corporate world to take immediate action have grown louder (UNGC, 2014). It seems now that every company is promoting how they are contributing to the SDGs, with the SDG goal wheel being attached to every sustainability event and, further, every sustainability report.

Are we in the midst of an SDG-wash? And where are the academic voices creating a debate around the corporate adoption of the SDGs? On the one hand, scholars have recognized the need for management scholars to tackle sustainability grand challenges and have named the SDGs as a guiding framework (George et al., 2016). On the other hand, we seem to have launched based on the assumptions that cherry-picking SDGs results in a meaningful  contribution, and that sustainability strategizing without baselining the goals will take private industry in the right direction.

The workshop will include a thematic introduction by Amanda Williams and a presentation of her work-in-progress research on the use of SDGs in the building industry with Lara Anne Hale. Amanda Williams will also be presenting her SDG research at the European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) 2019 in Edinburgh. Participants in the seminar will have the chance to debate critical perspectives on corporate engagement with the SDGs and to discuss pathways for future research.

Amanda Williams is Senior Researcher in the Group for Sustainability and Technology (SusTec) at ETH Zurich, as well as a Research Fellow of the “Governing Responsible Business” (GRB) research environment at CBS (2019). Her current research lies at the intersection of sustainability management and social-ecological systems. She studies how organizations understand global sustainability issues and develop corporate sustainability strategies that align with global targets. She approaches her work from a systems theory perspective and works with qualitative research methods. She recently received a research grant from the MTEC Foundation to implement workshops and help companies understand the SDGs.

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Sachs, J. D. (2012). From millennium development goals to sustainable development goals. The Lancet,
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UNGC. (2014). The Role of Business and Finance in Supporting the Post-2015 Agenda. New York. Retrieved

Please sign up before the April 20, 2019 by sending an email to Oliver at

When and where
May 2nd, 2019 in Dalgas Have 15, Frederiksberg.
The room number is DH 2Ø.071. In Dalgas Have building, go to the 2nd floor and find the room in the Eastern, turquoise coloured part.

The page was last edited by: CBS Sustainability // 02/22/2021