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Australian Businesses ‘Inspired’ by Sustainable Development Goals

27 June 2016 at 4:05 pm
Ellie Cooper
Australian businesses are using the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to review and frame their sustainability strategies, according to the latest iteration of the county’s longest-running CSR study.

Ellie Cooper | 27 June 2016 at 4:05 pm


Australian Businesses ‘Inspired’ by Sustainable Development Goals
27 June 2016 at 4:05 pm

Australian businesses are using the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals to review and frame their sustainability strategies, according to the latest iteration of the county’s longest-running CSR study.

United Nations, Geneva

United Nations, Geneva

The eighth State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand report, this year called Pathways to the Sustainable Development Goals, found the majority of respondents were aware of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), despite them still being a “fresh concept”.

In September last year the United Nations general assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with 17 goals, and Australia became one of more than 190 signatories.

Given the media profile of the event, the report said it was not surprising that 85 per cent of respondents were “aware” of the goals, with 36 per cent being “very aware” and only 15 per cent “not aware”.

Dr Leeora Black, managing director of the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR), which produces the report, told Pro Bono Australia News the results were encouraging.

“Australian business is really… quite inspired by the Sustainable Development Goals,” Black said.

“Most organisations are planning to address more than one of the goals and they seem to be taking really quite an encouraging approach to that.”

The report revealed the most important goals for Australian businesses were gender equality, good health and wellbeing, decent work and economic growth, industry innovation and infrastructure, and climate action.

It said most businesses would address several of the goals, and they see important linkages in their broader societal contributions.

Black said the report, released Monday, was the first attempt to understand the place of the SDGs in the broader business and CSR context in Australia. The 1,080 respondents were asked their intended methods for addressing the goals.

“The most common activity is multi-sector partnerships to help them address the goals,” Black said.

“I think that’s quite a realistic approach by organisations. The Sustainable Development Goals are addressing global challenges that no one company – or country even – can solve alone. And so partnerships-based approaches to addressing goals makes complete sense to me.

“The next most frequent action is really about the reporting of outcomes and progress… companies are intending to report their progress against the SDGs.

“Companies still are most highly-valuing the Global Reporting Initiative framework as the way to do that, and… given the changes in the reporting space and the move by the Global Reporting Initiative towards a set of standards that will be released later this year, I think that we have good cause for optimism about the quality and relevance and the uptake of reporting into the future.”

However, the report found CSR workers continued to struggle to influence their organisation’s decision-makers.

“It turns out that there is a significant gap between espoused priorities and concrete plans,” Black said.

“For some priorities, such as combatting business corruption or addressing labour relations issues, the ‘commitment coefficient’ was very low, at 0.25 and 0.21 respectively. This hints at the continuing struggle of CSR workers to influence organisational decisions and ensure appropriate budgets for their work.”

Overall, stakeholder engagement remained the highest CSR priority for businesses.  

“It has been there for a number of years and there’s good reason for that, it’s necessary for the achievement of pretty much any valuable outcomes that you want to achieve in the corporate responsibility and sustainability space,” Black said.

However, she said that the rise of technology as a business priority was interesting.

“This year’s report against previous years reports [shows] the quite rapid rise of quite a number of issues. One of them is the impact of technology, and that has risen from… 10th priority issue four years ago to second priority issue this year,” she said.

“And so I think that’s quite interesting that the implications of the digitally connected world are being considered now through the lense of corporate responsibility, so that’s very encouraging.”

The report also featured this year’s CSR Top 10 – the organisations that scored greater than 75 per cent for CSR management capabilities, as ranked by their employees. The 10 Australian companies were Abergeldie, Deloitte, Ebm-papst A&NZ, KPMG, NAB, PwC, South32, WaterAid, Westpac and Yarra Valley Water.

For the first time New Zealand had a CSR Top Three – Bank of New Zealand, Toyota NZ and Z Energy.

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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