What do Starbucks, Ben&Jerry’s and Lego’s have in common?
When I go into a Starbucks coffee shop, I see loads of sustainable packaging. Ben&Jerry’s has spoken out and refuses to sell ice cream in the occupied territories. Lego, in turn, has saved over 7,000 tons of cardboard just by reducing the size of its product packaging — and by 2025, it’s planning to stop producing single-use plastic altogether. These changing practices are in line with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Agenda for Sustainable Development goals by 2030, which include guaranteeing sustainable production and consumption.
With recent events in the world, global warming, COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, companies are expanding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to include a sharper focus on a wider range of environmental, social, health and economic issues that include product safety, sustainability, diversity, human rights, and corporate governance.
Let’s consider that we are living in an era where corporations have assumed legal personhood. Enjoying this kind of legal status must also mean greater responsibility for companies to uphold their obligations to society and to the planet. Along these lines, CSR has often been referred to as corporate citizenship.
Beyond just being a business model, CSR is a philosophy that ensures that any commercial venture positively impacts the world within which it operates. Just as governments carry out a mandate to represent their constituents, private enterprise is likewise a two-way street. CSR implies mutual aid not only between companies and their consumer bases, but also requires companies to improve the relationship between their production practices and the planet — after all, where else can companies obtain the raw materials for their products?
Thus, CSR can be said to take into account the triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profit.
Three common criteria to guide companies and other stakeholders in assessing how companies fair in terms of CSR can now be encapsulated into three letters: “ESG”: They stand for environmental, social, and governance. These three principles summarize what stakeholders are looking for under the rubric of ESG investment, sustainability factors by which companies are assessed as viable long-term investments.
Major players in the business intelligence and investment market offer courses in CSR, such as one seminar given by Thomson Reuters. This course introduces the general concept of corporate social responsibility and ESG investing, including a brief history of corporate responsibility and explaining CSR’s benefits to corporate stakeholders, and focus areas of CSR initiatives.
This increased interest in ESG investment is making steady headway in the digital revolution, where new applications use artificial intelligence for disaster risk assessment, cloud computing and big data for natural resource compliance monitoring, and more. These innovations are digitizing sustainability initiatives and strengthening partnerships between government and private enterprises around the world. Contrary to the outdated misperception that technology and environment should be at odds with one another, these initiatives are opening up new avenues for multibillion-dollar new investments in sustainable tech. Indeed, the value and potential that technology has in protecting our planet, climate and future is increasingly recognized around the world. For example, the UN marks as its 9th objective in the SDG Agenda for Sustainable Development by 2030 is to construct resilient infrastructures, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and spark innovation.