The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: Can multinational enterprises lead the Decade of Action?

Rob Van Tulder, Suzana B. Rodrigues, Hafiz Mirza, Kathleen Sexsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialpeer-review

82 Scopus citations


The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by all UN member states and have been embraced by many multinational enterprises (MNEs) and international NGOs. They created a ‘hybrid governance’ platform in which companies, governments, NGOs, and knowledge institutes can work on achieving common goals through targeted action and serve as the leading global sustainable development framework until 2030. By the year 2020, however, progress towards the goals proved slow, prompting the UN to announce a ‘Decade of Action’. The slow or limited adoption and implementation of the SDG Agenda by MNEs – in close interaction with government policies – is one of the root causes for delayed progress. The question is no longer ‘why’ MNEs should develop sustainability strategies, but rather ‘how’. A number of related questions arise. What have been the roles of MNEs in progress towards the SDGs, what is needed from them in the future, and what can be the role of international business (IB) scholarship in shaping discussion and action? This Special Issue tackles these questions from four angles: (1) identifying and helping to fill theoretical gaps in IB research on the SDGs; (2) asking which SDGs and targets provide promising venues for societally relevant IB research topics; (3) assessing and helping to fill empirical gaps by using, complementing, and upgrading relevant SDG indicators; and (4) showing how IB research and policy practice can become better aligned.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of International Business Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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