Climate change is fast becoming one of the most important topics of the decade, with activists of all ages and nationalities now mobilising and urging global leaders to take action and hold their governments accountable. Is it time for Ireland also to take a stand?
What is CSR?
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the term most frequently applied to the voluntary integration of social and environmental concerns into business practice. It’s about being a responsible business and having a positive impact on your community and society. The EU Commission defines it as “the responsibility of enterprises for their impacts on society”.
CSR is about running a business in a responsible and sustainable manner and positively contributing to the local community.
Research has shown that businesses can benefit from CSR. It tends to increase people’s productivity and motivation levels, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, strengthen a company’s reputation, and can lead to good publicity. CSR policies are also becoming increasingly important in public procurement tendering.
The Four Dimensions of CSR
- Workplace: This is about how you support and engage your employees
- Environment: This is about how you reduce, reuse or recycle resources to minimise negative environmental impacts
- Community: This is about how you interact with your local community partners and organisations
- Marketplace: This is about how your company makes responsible commercial decisions in dealing with suppliers and customers
Why CSR now?
The world is beginning to favour renewable energy over fossil fuels, and facing up to its responsibilities in pursuing meaningful decarbonisation.
As countries set a course to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 at the latest, the road ahead will be immensely challenging, but ultimately, it is in the best interests of the planet and its citizens everywhere. That includes whole economies, whether they are in the developed or developing world; and those doing business. Embracing sustainability is at last regarded as the way to go, though this is about much more than just going green.
Unquestionably, the election of Joe Biden as US President; China confirming its commitment to carbon neutrality; further declines in the cost of renewables (especially wind and solar) – and meaningful steps in building a global framework for robust green/climate investment have all played their part.
In many ways, businesses have been ahead of politicians, notably in embracing “science-based targets (SBTs). This is particularly the case with many multinational companies, who are also demanding that 100 % renewable energy be available to power their operations. ESG – environmental, social and governance – considerations have moved from the periphery to the core of their operations.
Where do we stand?
Latest indications suggest that most countries will have to increase their climate ambitions by a factor of 10 to keep global warming within the key Paris target of 1.5 degrees. Moreover, they have only a matter of months to begin scaling up their ambitions, if the key 2030 target of at least a 50% reduction in emissions is to be realised.
Separately, such is the ongoing toll from Covid-19 that there is temptation to revert to “normal”, with its associated carbon pollution, once control of the pandemic is secured.
Too many draft “recovery and resilience plans” to accelerate the EU’s transition towards climate neutrality and ecological sustainability are being drawn up by the Member States, including the Emerald Isle, which suggests a return to business as usual.
EU states have a few short weeks to address shortcomings before submitting them to the European Commission. They should allocate at least 40% of all investment to climate action and nature protection, and ensure structural green policy reforms. Applying that yardstick, too many states – including Ireland – fall short of the mark and there is a genuine fear that Member States will not deliver on their promises to tackle the climate crisis, protect and restore nature, and build a truly circular economy.
Considered the Silicon Valley of Europe, Ireland has a major responsibility and opportunity to take a lead here, but how the Taoiseach decides to play this is still a mystery.