Why Your Organization Should Incorporate the SDGs Into Its CSR Program

You’ve probably come in contact with the SDGs without even knowing it. That colorful grid of squares splashed across influencer and global activism campaigns? There’s more than meets the eye. 

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global priorities designed to be a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all”. The United Nations General Assembly mapped out a grand total of 169 targets detailing the efforts that we need to take globally for the sake of our future generations, and we’re sure there’s more to come as the economic and wellness state of the world shifts.

What does this have to do with your organization? Well, everything. In order to achieve these goals by 2030, governments, NGOs, private companies, and civil society need to collaborate on a massive scale. The good news is that the SDGs and their targets are so fleshed out that essentially, the heavy lifting has been done for you. It’s now your job to align your mission and CSR program with these existing goals. 

Most likely, you already have a developed CSR program. If you haven’t, it’s something to consider implementing in the very near future. Consumers expect the brands they support to be socially responsible. There’s a myriad of evidence for this, including this case study linking brand loyalty and CSR in the hotel industry. This case study does not stand alone; it’s  among several others spanning across industries, company sizes, and more. CSR is a high priority for younger generations in particular. According to this study by Deloitte, 42% of Millennials have “begun or deepened” their relationships with businesses they believe have positive impacts in society or the environment, and 37% have abandoned or retreated from companies they didn’t believe were ethical. Unfortunately, what we find to be the norm, even with companies that have well-established CSR programs, is that these impactful programs aren’t displayed in a way that attracts brand loyalists. Consumers are looking for quick stats; clear and concise messages that convey your company’s impact all while delivering your consumer the best possible product. 

We’ve witnessed a significant rise in awareness about the SDGs and campaigns popping up left and right, and there are more by the day. The benefit of acknowledging and contributing to these easily recognizable causes is paramount, and as the SDGs are infiltrating their way into customers’ hearts and minds, now is a better time than ever to establish your brand’s connection to these goals.

LET’S BACK UP. WHAT EXACTLY ARE THE SDGS?

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals are:

  • No Poverty
  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health and Well-being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • Reducing Inequality
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life On Land
  • Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  • Partnerships for the Goals

To find out more about the SDGS, visit https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdgs and explore details like the targets & indicators for each goal. 

A CALL TO ACTION

SDG target 12.6 calls for governments to “encourage companies, especially large and transnational companies, to adopt sustainable practices and to integrate sustainability information into their reporting cycle.” The Sustainable Development Goals provide a powerful framework for businesses to engage in corporate social responsibility and report their progress. As an internationally recognized set of goals for a sustainable future, these goals offer a valuable opportunity to align your CSR program with a universal mission. 

The scope of these global goals require action from all sectors in order to be met. Now more than ever, it is essential that brands take on their responsibility toward achieving them. Realizing this shared responsibility is the first step. Companies large and small have a crucial role to play in this agenda. As demand for sustainability increases, investing time on R&D for your CSR program will ultimately benefit both your economic growth and shareholder value. 

Successful businesses in this day and age create social value. And beyond that, they have the data to back it up and present those efforts clearly across everything from CSR reports to social posts. We argue that you should be one of them.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME? 

Working towards these goals will not only benefit society at large, but could reap rich benefits for your organization, too. Alignment with SDGs provides a solid framework for creating, managing, tracking, and communicating CSR and sustainability efforts. This will garner respect from customers, investors, and other stakeholders alike. Furthermore, innovation in corporate sustainability attracts and retains a workforce who increasingly prioritize sustainability and CSR. And lastly, to put it simply, creating a better society at large will create a better environment in which to do business. The achievement of the SDGs will create an environment with fewer risks (anyone else wonder if the Covid-19 pandemic was avoidable?) and a richer, more diverse and skilled society. 

SHOW ME HOW

First, determine your impact. Use the 17 SDGs as a guide to examine where your organization stands at the moment. Don’t shy away from the negative. Determine which areas of your business might be having a negative impact on the UN’s SDGs. Look on the bright side: many companies actually find that they are already contributing to the SDGs in a positive way without realizing it and they are simply missing the opportunity to communicate it to their consumers. To narrow down new goals your company can tackle, look at every step of your supply chain, then pick the targets that are most relevant. Many issues such as gender equality and sustainable production cut across several SDGs. The progress made in one area will most definitely contribute to progress elsewhere. Tools such as this SDG compass can help you to identify which goal best aligns with your business.  

Listing the specific SDGs that each aspect of your CSR program targets will not only contextualize the work you are doing and provide the opportunity to align your core values with the global action taking place, but since the vision is internationally respected by activists, governments and scientists alike, placing the recognizable branding on your site will foster trust with your consumers and clients.

By now you should have an idea of how linking your CSR program to the SDGs provides a framework to establish a common language for dialogue around your CSR efforts. But in order to maximize publicity of your efforts, you will need a well developed content strategy (and no, we don’t mean just posting it on your site). Your impact should not be kept secret or hidden in fear of feeling like it’s self-serving. In this day and age, storytelling across platforms is the most effective way to communicate both your services and products and the great work you’re doing on the back end to help change the world. So, don’t be afraid to brag about yourself…and if you need help bragging, give us a ring so we can help push your CSR successes to the forefront. 

Have you already incorporated the SDGs into your program? Share below so we can all inspire one another and pay it forward.

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