SDGs, ESG, sustainability, CSR… Which is best?

02 of March of 2022

We are in the decade of action (UN dixit), which basically means that we have given ourselves until 2030 to make sure the world has no problems.

It may sound too ambitious when we put it like that. But the truth is, there is a set of objectives (seventeen, to be exact) that all countries have accepted and that are essentially good. For example, short of a miracle, 2030 will still find people on the planet who don’t have access to quality water. However, we must all work together so that this number is much lower than it is today (2.2 billion people still don’t have access to drinking water that’s safely managed).

What does this have to do with businesses?

Companies have accepted the agenda proposed by the UN and the companies’ home governments. The sustainable development goals (SDGs) have objectives and indicators. This approach has let managers and businessmen feel like it’s a language they understand and share. This way, the SDGs have become a good tool to influence the companies’ strategies and measure their achievements.

But what kind of achievements?

Well, the achievements that corporate responsibility directors have been promoting since the beginning of the 21st century:

  1. A responsible company should not only achieve a healthy income statement but must also measure, manage, and optimize its environmental impacts (E).
  2. Their activity must make sense because it is carried out with and for people (employees, suppliers, clients, residents of towns and cities), and how we improve all their lives – that is, the social impacts – must be measured (S).
  3. All this must be managed with ethical standards and standards of transparency that we call good governance (G).

And the SDGs?

They’re helpful to identify key E, S, and G aspects. In other words, a responsible company must consider ESG criteria in its management; if it doesn’t, it will not be sustainable in the long term.

That is the concept of sustainability: your relationships with people and the environment can continue over time, and it’s only possible if your relationships with people (grouped in interest groups) are fair and balanced, and if you take care of the context where your activities are carried out and you don’t overuse resources.

In the end, it seems like we’re caught in a loop. After all, we’re talking about the same thing: ESG, sustainability, responsibility – each with their nuances, and everything in the context of the SDGs. What’s important is to remember that companies are made up of people who make decisions according to their level of responsibility. Therefore, a company will be responsible if its managers and employees are responsible in their strategic decisions and their day-to-day choices. That is why CSR -ESG -sustainability is so complex and crosscutting.

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