The results of the 2016 Annual Review of the State of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Australia and New Zealand were announced on Wednesday evening 6 July at La Trobe University’s City Campus, at 360 Collins Street, Melbourne.
The review is produced by the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility (ACCSR).
The review is the longest running study of CSR practices in Australia and New Zealand, and one of the largest longitudinal CSR studies in the world.
This year 1,080 respondents participated in the research. This year’s report also explored the relevance of international CSR frameworks in Australia and New Zealand and indicated that the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) remains the most used and the most useful framework for most organisations, followed by the UN Global Compact.
The results of the Review and Australia’s progress in CSR and towards achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was outlined by Professor John Thwaites (Chair, Monash Sustainability Institute and Chair, United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific).
Professor Thwaites joined a panel with Dr Suzanne Young (Head of Department of Management and Marketing, La Trobe Business School) and two employees from the Top ten companies, Grace Rose Miller (Yarra Valley Water) and Jordan Grace, Corporate Responsibility Manager with the National Australia Bank (NAB), to discuss the Review and provide perspectives from the academic and corporate sectors.
The Review reveals that Australian businesses are very aware of the newly adopted SDGs and many are planning strategies and partnerships to pursue the Goals.
This year the review examined how companies are aligning their business strategies with the SDGs and revealed that the most important Goals for Australia and New Zealand business are Gender Equality; Good Health and Wellbeing; and Decent Work and Economic Growth; followed by Industry Innovation and Infrastructure and Climate Action. The Review has also shown that the ‘implications of technology for business’ has risen to second top priority from tenth place in 2012.
“It was encouraging to see that organisations are planning to address a multiple set of Goals and see important linkages in their broader societal contributions,” says ACCSR’s Managing Director, Dr Leeora Black. She continued: “Engaging in strategic partnerships is the key action they will undertake in the year ahead – suggesting they understand advancing the Sustainable Development agenda.”
At the same time, in this Review, responses from participating businesses indicate a significant gap between espoused priorities and concrete plans, and the results hint at the continuing struggle of CSR workers to influence organisational decisions and ensure appropriate budgets for their work.
In viewing sustainability and CSR as key management capabilities, La Trobe Business School continues to work with ACCSR to embed sustainability and CSR in the programs and strategy of the School. In line with the themes of this Annual Review, La Trobe Business School is one of the United Nations Champion Business Schools in the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) to advance corporate sustainability and social responsibility in our curricula and research, thought leadership in this area and to develop responsible leaders of the future.
La Trobe Business School is planning to facilitate a series of Australia-wide workshops between PRME higher educational business schools and members of the UN Global Compact Network Australia to present and interact on the theme of the SDGs. The outcomes of the workshops will be improved dialogue and networks between universities and other sectors, and the initiating of joint projects on the SDGs.
Professor Thwaites believes that business understands that the Goals are more easily achieved in partnership than by individual organisations operating on their own. He noted: “What we need to do is establish the right strategic partnerships, and having done that, implement them.”
Professor Thwaites outlined a number of strategic actions businesses can take to work towards achieving the SDGs and said that at present companies are mapping what they are doing, and comparing that to the Goals and targets. He says that businesses are adopting a smart approach but he said that while we are working well towards meeting some goals, “it’s important not to take our eye off what we have ignored.” He sees that there is a need for a degree of flexibility as different companies have different operations, and it is difficult to find a one-size-fits-all model.
Over the next period he believes more products will come into the market to help businesses identify how they can make impact and align their businesses to meet the Goals.
The Annual Review reported this year’s CSR Top ten organisations that scored greater than 75% for CSR management capabilities (as ranked by their employees) are Abergeldie, Deloitte, Ebm-papst A&NZ, KPMG, NAB, PwC, South32, WaterAid, Westpac and Yarra Valley Water. This year, the Review included New Zealand companies and found the leading three CSR companies in New Zealand are Bank of New Zealand, Toyota NZ and Z Energy.
Grace Miller, representing Yarra Valley Water, said that gender equity and diversity are the big issues for her organisation along with minimising impact on waterways. A strategic priority for the organisation is to work effectively with Indigenous communities and local governments.
Dr Suzanne Young said that generally universities are not performing well in CSR and have an important and essential role in achieving and teaching about the SDGs. “If business schools are educating the next generation of leaders and a key issue is responsible management – it is critical for universities to build the capacity of our future leaders and for them to understand these priorities,” she says. She believe that students are expecting leadership to be a core of university teaching and research, and that universities themselves have to lead by example in areas such as gender equality where we currently see a low score card. Dr Young also believes that the universities in regional Australia have an important role to play in building sustainable communities and ensuring that educational capability is a priority.
Jordan Grace from the National Australia Bank says that one of NAB’s philosophies in progressing their CSR strategy is that ‘their business will do well if Australians are doing well’. Jordan says that NAB has a sound record of programs that support its customers in financial inclusion and resilience. “Many of these programs sit across a number of SDGs, like Decent Work and Economic Growth and No Poverty. SDGs provide a good lens to look at what we are doing, where we want to go and how we can drive collective impact.”
Partners for the 2016 Annual Review of the State of CSR in Australia and New Zealand were La Trobe Business School, Massey University, the New Zealand Sustainable Business Council, Sustainable Business Australia, Engineers Without Borders and Wright Communications.
The 2016 Annual Review of the State of Corporate Social Responsibility is available for download, here.
The Sustainable Development Goals can be seen, here.
More information about La Trobe Business School’s involvement with the PRME can be accessed, here.