With the recent events that have shaken the world; whether it is workplace gender and racial inequality, or even corporate greenwashing, there is a greater emphasis on addressing injustice. Both consumers and employees are looking for more than corporate social responsibility - they’re looking for corporate social justice.
Before we can start thinking about how to build a justice-driven business, we need to understand what a justice-driven business is. We’ve all heard of corporate social responsibility (CSR), but what is corporate social justice? It’s a framework managed by the trust between a company and its stakeholders, and the broader community that it influences. CSR is often accomplished through a secondary program attached to a company’s main business, while corporate social justice is deeply integrated in all aspects of the way a company operates.
When looking at corporate social justice, it is crucial to look at the sustainability of your business as well. Many businesses aim to build a sustainable business, but often we miss out on the role social justice plays in creating sustainability and vice versa. Social issues and environmental issues are often more interconnected than we think. Economics of mutuality, authored by Bruno Roche, suggests that from the standpoint of global sustainability, the pursuit of profit should serve a higher purpose, Roche emphasised that ‘businesses should adopt a responsible and more complete form of capitalism that is fairer and more efficient than the purely financial one’.
How can businesses and individuals practise social justice by prioritising sustainability?
1. Attract the right stakeholders, shareholders and vice versa.
Choosing the partners you support is a key aspect in moving towards sustainability. It is important to do your due diligence in attracting, identifying and engaging partnerships that are sustainability-driven. Find out how they are actively combating social issues in the community and how they intend to make an impact through an engaging two-way communication system.
Your stakeholders play a part in joint-decision making and the innovation process in advancing towards sustainability. Forging partnerships that inspire innovation and drive to do good in sustainability and social responsibility will help elevate your company’s own sustainability goals and allow you to achieve them together. In the words of Jacqueline Goodwin, “When all communities are involved in sustainability initiatives, economic impact is greater and grassroots solutions stick.” It’s going to take everyone’s combined effort to make a meaningful change.
2. Focus on Value Creation
Build your businesses and community around creating shared values. Businesses need to start collaborating with other sectors for greater sustainability and resilience, aiming to develop multi-sector coalitions through developing a new framework. Governments, NGOs, companies and community members are instrumental in making the new framework successful. One way to ensure a fruitful collaboration is through a movement known as collective impact. Collective impact focuses on large-scale social change that requires broad cross-sector coordination. There have been several successful collaborations in the social sector and are able to guide companies’ efforts to bring together the various actors in their ecosystem to catalyse change. It requires a systemic approach to social impact built on the relationships between organisations working together to achieve their shared goals.
Transform your company values by considering these 3 questions:
Do my long-term goals align with SDG and ESG goals?
Am I considering vulnerable entities, including the environment and communities at the bottom of the pyramid?
Is my business resilient in the face of crisis and open to innovation?
3. Ensure Transparent Reporting
In order to build trust with your stakeholders, it is important to be consistent and be accountable to them. Shape and transform your business with your report in mind. It is important to remember not to fall into the trap of using measuring and reporting as a means in itself, and it shouldn’t just be a checklist of dids/did nots. Your report should be used as a tool to communicate to your stakeholders how well you have allocated your resources and to improve environmental or social outcomes.
The next point to consider is monitoring your carbon. In response to Singapore’s carbon tax hike, Minister Grace Fu explains the importance of a carbon tax in encouraging companies to reduce their carbon emissions. The effect of carbon can be extremely detrimental, especially to vulnerable communities. Kenneth P. Pucker talks about including a commitment to a transparent application of rigorous science-based targets in line with nature’s limits. Regardless of what standard triumphs, sustainability reports must be mandated and audited by an empowered referee.
As the world transits into a more ESG focused economic model, businesses need to be social justice driven not only for the sake of their investors, stakeholders, or a marketing strategy. Great businesses serve a genuine need in considering sustainable systems and practices, as vulnerable communities and the environment are relying on them to do so.