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From Traditional to Transformative: Irish Businesses Explore How to Go Beyond CSR

29/06/20

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From Traditional to Transformative: Irish Businesses Explore How to Go Beyond CSR

Last Wednesday on 17 June, businesses from across Ireland came together in an online training event organised by IDEA to learn about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their potential to achieve impacts beyond traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices. 

"SDGs are more relevant now than ever before and now is the prime window of opportunity to raise awareness and engagement.” - Training Participant 

More than 30 companies joined the Bridge 47 virtual event, ‘Beyond CSR – Sustainability Helping You to Build Back Better’. Participants discovered how to develop a ten-point SDG plan with trainers and sustainability experts Dr. Tara Shine and Madeleine Murray. 

The training began with Tara pointing out that sustainability is about far more than just environmental issues but rather a ‘happy society, healthy planet and thriving economy’. Striking examples to highlight the different SDGs were employed and hot topics such as the current Black Lives Matter protests were deliberated on.  

Participants were asked what their main COVID-19 pain points were, from unemployment to reduced hours to small business closures. They learned how these problems related to various SDGs including Goal 8 of Decent Work and Economic Growth and Goal 9 on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. It was hoped such illustrations would reinforce the learning for participants of the relevance and interconnections between all SDGs. One participant stated that ‘this has been enlightening in how we can align to all 17 goals’.  

Empowering employees in lifelong learning and Global Citizenship Education emerged as a key theme. Activities encouraged participants to think critically about consumer and employee attitudes and understanding of sustainable development.  There was general agreement that employees cared about sustainable business and it was highlighted that millennials are prepared to make personal sacrifices to make an impact on issues they care about, whether that’s leaving their job if their employer’s CSR values no longer met their expectations or taking a pay cut to work for a responsible company. This implies that employees would be open to education programmes on sustainable development topics. The trainers shared several examples from businesses that have already engaged their staff teams in such learning with the content informed by staff surveys.  

Throughout the training, participants became equipped with the skills and knowledge to develop impactful strategies to engage with the SDGs. If companies learn to embed CSR effectively into all aspects of business, then it can be transformative. As pointed out by the trainers quoting the writer Damian Barr ‘we are not all in the same boat, we are all in the same storm’ but those that are flexible and adaptable are the companies that will thrive.  

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic is being felt across all sectors, especially business. This event offered the private sector new ways of learning and thinking about the world.  

We are keen to engage with as many businesses as possible through Bridge 47 training and events with a view to promoting and supporting more meaningful engagement with the SDGs, raising awareness of the importance and benefits of GCE, and building relationships with potential partners outside our sector. The training was the first of three events being organised by IDEA for 2020 to bridge between civil society and the private sector. Watch this space for details of upcoming events. 

For further information on the above training or Bridge 47 activities in Ireland, please contact Ji Hyun Kim, Bridge 47 National Officer at ji.hyun.kim@bridge47.org

This article first appeared on bridge47.org, 25 June 2020