Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals: what does it all mean? - Social Good Connect

Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainable Development Goals: what does it all mean?

22 December 2020

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are well-known concepts in the business world. Effective implementation of CSR can bring a wealth of benefits to an organisation in regards to reputation and employee satisfaction, while contributing to the SDGs.

What is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

Corporate Social Responsibility relates to the social and environmental initiatives that an organisation incorporates into its ‘business operations and interactions with its stakeholders’ to build a sustainable future. 

It’s a business management concept where organisations pay substantial consideration to their business morals and ethics, and examine how they can contribute value to the local community and environment through their business practices while achieving sustainable growth? 

Many businesses action CSR on a basic level by donating money to charities or by choosing a ‘charity of the year‘ to support. While this has short-term benefits, we must acknowledge the distinction between charitable giving and strategic CSR, which has a long-term impact on social and environmental prosperity.

An effective CSR strategy is much more in-depth. Complying to compulsory measures is no longer enough. Businesses must strive to support the sustainability of their community and the environment. 

Now more than ever, competition is fierce and innovation is fast. Organisations need to evaluate the bigger picture, not just their bottom line. This is where CSR plays its part, and it’s encouraging profit-driven businesses to transform into purpose-led organisations.

A report by PwC explains that ‘78% of consumers would be more likely to interact with a business that incorporates the SDGs into their business strategy’.

Are there different types of Corporate Social Responsibility?

CSR is such a broad concept and is interpreted differently by every organisation to align with their own goals and values. 

There are three main categories of CSR:

  1. Environmental initiatives aim to reduce a business’s impact on the environment. For example, organisations may implement strategies to reduce their carbon footprint, use less plastic or decrease their energy consumption.
  2. Philanthropic responsibility relates to the actions that organisations take to make a positive impact on society, such as donating to charities, fundraising, or supporting local community projects through employee volunteering.
  3. Ethical CSR is a business’s focus on the fair treatment and equality of all its stakeholders. This includes customers, employees, and external companies in the supply chain. Ethical strategies include participating in fairtrade, equal wages, diverse recruitment and offering opportunities to those who may be struggling to find work

Implementing any of these activities can have a positive effect on an organisation and its reputation. It demonstrates that businesses are considering more than the money in their pockets and their desire to make a difference.

Why is CSR important?

CSR assists organisations in building trust and loyalty with its stakeholders by making a promise to sustainably generate profits. It’s important because it impacts the organisation’s reputation and is a concept that is shaping the opinions of consumers and employees. 

Customers are becoming more aware of environmental issues. Reports show that  59% of consumers expect businesses to consider the climate and environment within their business practices.

Meanwhile, the number of employees who value CSR is also increasing. One study demonstrates that 64% of millennials wouldn’t accept a job at a company that doesn’t have a robust CSR strategy. 

So, implementing a CSR programme is critical for businesses to attract skilled, talented employees, boost their reputation, and improve customer satisfaction.  

With Brexit and COVID-19 causing a major strain on the UK’s businesses, you may be worried that now isn’t the right time to consider CSR, but we believe it’s more important than ever before. Read our blog about Brexit, Covid-19, and what it all means for CSR to learn more!

What are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)?

The objective of the SDGs outlined by the United Nations is ‘to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.’ 

There are 17 goals in total, each with their own set of targets. We must consider all of the goals in unity to achieve sustainable development. 

infpgraph of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

The SDGs were created in 2015 for all member states of the United Nations. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development includes a plan to achieve the goals by 2030.

Although these goals seem ambitious, if every organisation implements effective CSR, we could be on our way to a sustainable future that promotes equality, human rights, environmental longevity and economic growth.

Are CSR and the SDGs connected and why should organisations consider both in their business strategy?

Together, CSR and the SDGs can provide a powerful model for sustainable growth.  

SDGs provide a framework that can be leveraged by government bodies, corporations, civil society and individuals. Although the participation of each sector is critical for achieving these goals, there is more pressure on large corporations to drive change through their CSR strategies. 

A report by PwC explains that ‘78% of consumers would be more likely to interact with a business that incorporates the SDGs into their business strategy’. With consumers prioritising sustainability in their decision-making, it’s imperative that organisations sign-up to the SDGs in order to expand and find new opportunities. 

Another perspective to consider is that ‘business is dependent on society for employees, customers and its reputation and licence to operate’. So aligning business objectives with the opinions of the public can encourage trust and loyalty between consumers and companies, which in turn leads to sustainable business growth.

Which SDGs do your consumers prioritise and what CSR initiatives can you implement to enforce a positive change?

How can you integrate CSR with SDGs?

From SMEs to large corporate organisations, businesses of all sizes can develop CSR initiatives that align with the SDGs. 

For example, implementing an employee volunteering programme where your team spends time working with charities can support:

  • Good health and wellbeing (goal 3): There is a strong correlation between volunteering and mental wellbeing. 
  • Quality education (goal 3): Volunteering allows your employees to learn new skills.

Alternatively, innovating your business operations can support environment-related SDGs. Maybe your organisation will run purely on renewable energy or reduce its production of single-use plastic. 

Will you develop a CSR strategy?

Now you know the basics of CSR and its close relationship with the SDGs, hopefully you see the value in considering the impact your business has on society and the environment. 

If you want to know more about how Social Good Connect can help you with your CSR activities and contribute to a sustainable future why not give us a call or join our mailing list to stay up to date with all things social impact!

Written by Holly Moore

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