The Business Case for the Sustainable Development Goals: An Empirical Analysis of 21 Danish Companies' Engagement with the SDGs

Michael W. Hansen, Henrik Gundelach, Erik Thomas Johnson

Research output: Working paperResearch

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This paper explores why business engage with the SDG agenda, with a view to understanding the business case for the SDGs. Building on and extending the responsibility literature’s discussion of the business case for responsibility, the paper develops a conceptual framework for analyzing why business engage with the SDGs. This framework is employed to analyze why a sample of 21 Danish companies decided to engage with the SDG agenda. The analysis finds that most companies view the SDGs as a platform for achieving rather conventional business goals such as mitigating risk, saving costs, and differentiating products and services. However, in a few cases, companies use the SDGs as a lever for carving out uncontested positions in future markets. The paper concludes that companies overwhelmingly view the SDGs as a business opportunity rather than as a business responsibility, something that fundamentally may distinguish the SDG agenda from previous responsibility agendas. The paper fills a gap in the extant literature on business responsibility by developing and validating a classification of the business case for the SDGs based on economic value drivers, and by deepening the empirical understanding of, what precisely this business case may be.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherCentre for Business and Development Studies
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9788797317044
Publication statusPublished - 2022
SeriesCBDS Working Paper


  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • The business case for responsibility
  • Multiple case studies

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