This second component of SDG 9 is centred around strengthening businesses and making them more sustainable. Globally, small businesses must have easier access to high-value markets and to financing opportunities. In the Netherlands, the main topics in this context are relations between employers and employees, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large corporations, and sustainable production processes and products.
Summary of results
- Eight of the twelve indicators are trending towards increasing well-being.
- Workers’ satisfaction with working conditions is trending upwards.
- Relatively few SMEs report access to financing as their main obstacle to growth. The trend is decreasing, and the Netherlands is near the top of the EU rankings.
- Trends in value added and employment in the environment sector, energy and greenhouse gas intensity of the economy, corporate social responsibility (CSR) sections in annual reports, and trust in banks are also all pointing to higher levels of well-being.
- Where the Netherlands can be compared with other countries, it is in the top or middle group of the EU.
Dashboard and indicators
The topics covered by SDG 9 are quite comprehensive and can be broken down into three main components: infrastructure and mobility, sustainable business, and knowledge and innovation. This second dashboard for SDG 9 focuses on strengthening businesses and making them more sustainable. Small businesses should ideally have easier access to high-value markets and to financing opportunities. The SDG agenda contains indicators relevant to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and to business activity in developed countries such as the Netherlands. CSR also touches on other SDGs: access to credit for small businesses, employee conditions, more sustainable production processes, and inclusive and sustainable national and global value chains. In a developed economy like that of the Netherlands, the main topics in this context are employer-employee relations, the role of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large corporations, and sustainable production processes and products. Some topics on the SDG agenda are less relevant to the Netherlands, such as increasing the share of manufacturing in the economy.
Overall, this dashboard shows a fairly positive picture. For eight of the twelve indicators trends are moving towards the 2030 goals and higher well-being. Other trends are stable, and the Netherlands occupies positions in the top and middle groups in EU rankings.
Resources and opportunities
Resources and opportunities describe options for businesses to make their production processes, energy consumption and value chains more sustainable. All four indicators show a favourable trend from the perspective of well-being. First of all, KPMG reported that 90 of the 100 highest-turnover companies in the Netherlands included a section on sustainability and CSR in their annual reports in 2022. This is up from 80 at the beginning of the trend period in 2015. In addition, the significance of companies active in environmental protection and natural resources management in the Dutch economy is steadily increasing. In 2022, value added of this environmental sector represented 2.6 percent of GDP and accounted for 2.4 percent of total employment.
A third positive development is access to financing. In 2021, 5.2 percent of SMEs cited access to credit as the biggest obstacle to business growth, compared with 12.9 percent at the beginning of the trend period in 2015. This relatively low percentage puts the Netherlands among the leaders in the EU. The questionnaire this international comparison is based on did change in 2022: businesses now have to give a mark from 1 to 10 to reflect the impact of the impediments they experienced. With a score of 3.1, access to credit was the smallest problem experienced by Dutch SMEs in 2022. The trend and EU position for this indicator were calculated using the previous methods.
Use concerns companies’ efforts to make production processes, energy use and value chains more sustainable. The energy intensity of the economy – a measure of energy efficiency – shows a downward trend. The trend in domestic consumption of materials is stable – the Netherlands leads the way in Europe with 7,427 kilograms per capita in 2021, the lowest consumption in the EU.
Outcomes refer to actual sustainability of production processes and value chains. SMEs (up to 250 employees) account for most of Dutch businesses. Together, these businesses generated 62.4 percent of value added of the entire Dutch non-financial sector in 2021. The trend is neutral. SMEs received large sums in government financial support in 2020 and 2021 to get them through the coronavirus crisis; the temporary emergency bridging measure (NOW), for example. These coronavirus subsidies are not included in the value added of these companies.
Greenhouse gas intensity is used here as an indicator for the eco-efficiency of the economy. This indicator shows a downward trend: less greenhouse gas is being emitted per unit of production. The Netherlands is in the EU middle group. Although the Netherlands tops the EU rankings in terms of labour income share (LIS), this is only indicative: comparisons with other countries are difficult due to definition differences. The LIS is described in more detail in SDG 8.1.
Subjective assessment provides a picture of how satisfied people in work are with their working conditions and how much trust people place in banks and large corporations. Nearly half of the Dutch population have a reasonably or very high level of trust in banks. This percentage rose substantially in 2020 and 2021, by 5.1 and 2.1 points respectively. In 2022 it remained at about the same level (48.5 percent). The medium-term trend is rising. Considerably fewer people had a high level of trust in large corporations: 35.8 percent in 2022, 3.4 percentage points down on 2021. The medium-term trend is neutral.
Lastly, satisfaction with working conditions is trending upwards. According to CBS and TNO figures, 77.1 percent of employees were satisfied with their working conditions in 2021. Starting from this year, these figures refer to all workers, not only employees. Figures for 2022 are not directly comparable with those for previous years. So here the – rising – trend is based on figures up to and including 2021 and the figure for 2022 (76.2 percent) is not included in the dashboard.