In 2015, the United Nations launched the SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDGs) in collaboration with civil society and firms, recognizing that leading firms have the potential to innovate bold solutions at scale to achieve global sustainability. Exploring the impact of the SDGs’ launch on firms, through the lens of normative pressure, we apply computer-aided text analysis to the language used in sustainability reports of 164 large corporations to investigate whether and how the SDGs impacted sustainability reporting. Results show that, when comparing firms’ sustainability reports before and after 2015, increasing alignment was observed with the language of certain SDGs, while alignment did not significantly change for other SDGs. We further analyze these changes across industries, natural resource intensity levels, and geo-institutional contexts, revealing variation among firms based on institutional characteristics that may point to selection priorities and critical gaps as global firms engage with the grand challenges embodied in the SDGs.
JEL CLASSIFICATION: M14