CSR meets SDGs: How Brands Can Tap into Growing Popularity of SDGs to Create Thoughtful Campaigns

Having a CSR framework is good, however, garnering the admiration of consumers by executing impactful campaigns is the desired goal of every brand. By aligning your CSR to SDGs, brands can create that desired effect. Our Senior Consultant, Planning and Integration, Sola Solotan provides invaluable advice on this matter.

On 25 September 2015, a process led by the United Nations (UN) resulted in the 193 Member States adopting 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seeking to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

The SDGs cover immense challenges such as economic inclusion, diminishing natural resources, geopolitical instability, environmental degradation and the multifaceted impacts of climate change. They define the agenda for inclusive economic growth through to 2030 and were developed with inputs from business, academia and non-profit organizations globally.

Many companies have also been working to address environmental, social and economic issues. Leading companies have begun to recognize that they can only address the complex sustainability challenges by scaling up their efforts through collaboration with peers, industry and sector organizations, customers, governments, non-profit organizations, and society. The SDGs provide a universal and visionary framework for this global cooperation and action, bringing all stakeholders together to address and solve these challenges proactively.

If the SDGs are to be met, brands are likely to play a significant role and may also have a lot to gain by creating a campaign around the SDGs for a lasting impression.

CSR and SDGs: the nexus

Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) is a business approach that contributes to sustainable development by delivering economic, social and environmental benefits for all stakeholders.

The SDGs are the blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. These goals are as follows: 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 and Reduced Inequalities. Others are Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Production and Consumption, Climate Action, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Peace, Justice and Strong Institution and Partnerships for the Goals.

Companies can tap into these goals in partnership with relevant organizations or bodies to provide solutions and in turn, write their names in gold. Companies are facing challenges that limit their potential to grow, such as scarce natural resources, weak financial markets, limited local buying power and lack of qualified talent.

There are different opportunities for companies to harness the SDGs to create opportunities to address these challenges across four key themes: growth, risk, capital, and purpose.

Secondly, business growth, in general, is tied to the achievement of the SDGs at a macro level; however, to take action at a local level, companies should identify how they can contribute to meeting the goals in a way that drives financial performance in the markets they operate in, and leave their footprint in the minds of stakeholders.

SDGs Nos. 8, 9 and 12 refer directly to economic growth, employment, sustainable industrialization, innovation, and sustainable production, many of the other SDGs also offer business advantages through expansion into new markets, attracting talent and reducing risks from operations. For example, when beverage companies decided to invest in improved watersheds by working to replenish the aquifer water they use, thereby also committing to provide access to clean water to people in those water-stressed regions, their strategy aligns with SDG No.6 – Clean Water and Sanitation. While providing water supplies to sustain their bottling franchises near those watersheds, they are also investing in their social license to operate and thus strengthen their brands in these communities.

All companies stand to gain from more resilient communities, reliable access to natural resources, and an educated and healthy population to support their workforce. By helping drive progress toward these outcomes and creating shared value, companies can help to secure their ability to generate capital and shareholder value in the long-term.

SDGs offer a road map for companies to engage with relevant stakeholders and create memorable and sustainable strategies that can transform their business models, products and services, and the communities where they operate.

CSR meets SDGs: How Brands Can Tap into Growing Popularity of SDGs to Create Thoughtful Campaigns
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