Ian Todd, founder of CSR Scotland and People Scotland, sets out how 2017 can be the year of inclusive sustainability, creating better aligned economic, social and environmental success for all in Scotland.
Although 2016 will rightly be forever etched in our memories as the year the Starman returned to the stars, it also looks destined to be remembered for a couple of fairly seismic political shifts: namely Brexit and Trump. For some, these changes bring despair and uncertainty, for others, hope and opportunity. Either way, many will be awaiting the emerging trends of 2017. While some will fixate on deciphering the rhetorical soundbites of political leaders, others will take leadership into their own hands, managing disruption by becoming hungrier for success, recognising the areas where the direction of change is inevitable.
It’s clear that one of these areas is corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a means to achieve inclusive sustainability or, "doing well by doing good". Does current CSR pass the 3 E test? that is, does it serve the Environment, the Economy and Everyone in Society?
Some developments over the past year, often missed in popular commentaries, paint a vivid picture of a world finally waking up to its sustainable future: over 190 nations have signed up to international agreements on sustainable development and climate change; renewables are not only outperforming fossil fuels globally, but investment is accelerating in one while disinvestment is accelerating in the other; global businesses and finances are coming on board; the circular (zero-waste) economy has emerged as a high-profile issue at the World Economic Forum.
It’s clear that, as we continue to develop the place for ethical businesses into the 21st Century, environment and human wellbeing are no-longer seen as issues in conflict or distracting attention from business growth and success; they are vital to it. Importantly, this shifting mind-set has emerged largely because companies globally are demonstrating that sustainability pays, and people are increasingly expecting them to be sustainable.
In Scotland, we are further ahead than most. The Scottish Government raised the bar on ambition of its already world-leading climate change targets to a 66% reduction in emissions by 2032, having met its 2020 targets 6 years ahead of schedule.
In addition Scotland was recently named one of the world’s top circular economy nations at the World Economic Forum in Davos and the Scottish Government has planted the Circular Economy concept at the very heart of economic and manufacturing strategies.
So how do we go further and quicker on our CSR journey to inclusive sustainability? How can we help businesses to innovate and prosper by taking advantage of the potential that sustainability offers?
Part of the answer might be to rethink the offering from CSR, helping to move it from compliance and risk into the business development sphere – for businesses to look at the environment through the lens of opportunity, not just responsibility.
Another part might be to take a fresh look at the mindset of collaboration within and across sectors, to accelerate the cultural shift required by identifying and encouraging the intrapreneurs within our organisations and entrepreneurs without; supporting those who innovate around challenge and opportunity.
What is certain is that throughout 2017 and going forward success in our endeavours will undoubtedly be more quickly realised when all of civic society works in true collaboration for mutual benefit. In doing so we will create better aligned economic, social and environmental success for the people of Scotland.
Ian Todd is founder of CSR Scotland and People Scotland, Trustee of the adoption services Charity Birthlink and a past member of the Executive committee of the Scottish Charity Finance Group.
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