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Sep 27, 2023
Academy of Givers

SDGs are both the guidelines that a business should follow to make a solid impact and a useful benchmark to measure such impact. But how can businesses incorporate the SDGs in their CSR strategy?

On the 19th of September, the Academy of Givers hosted another one of its Members’ Meetings and this time the topic chosen was SDGs and Philanthropy. The speaker for this occasion, Mr Julian Dingli, a representative of CORE platform, led the audience in understanding how corporate social responsibility initiatives and philanthropic efforts can be enhanced by following the SDGs.

The question that started the meeting was: what are the SDGs? According to the official definition provided by the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals are a collection of seventeen interlinked objectives designed to serve as a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future.

As Mr Dingli pointed out, the SDGs are guidelines to what a business should aspire to achieve, as well as an indication of existing issues that are worth tackling. Therefore, including the SDGs in businesses’ projects means creating a direct link to the actions that should be taken and provides benchmarks that are useful to measure the impact in the long run.

The ways in which SDGs can support philanthropy are numerous:

  1. They help businesses build their strategies by providing clear and prioritised goals, and they keep the alignment and focus of each activity to the desired outcomes;
  2. They provide a benchmark for measurable impact;
  3. SDGs also provide good collaboration opportunities, both between businesses that are aligned in their goals and between businesses and the NGOs already operating to tackle the issue at hand;
  4. They are also a valuable instrument for global awareness and advocacy, to give visibility to the most impending contemporary issues, and they carry a lot of power to influence policy;
  5. SDGs are also a valuable tool for resource mobilisation, since incorporating one or more of them into businesses’ strategy opens the way to funding opportunities;
  6. And lastly, following the SDGs constitutes a precious opportunity for innovation and knowledge sharing.

Overall, the SDGs are a valuable tool to enhance philanthropy in a business and, as Mr Dingli explained, the underlying principle of philanthropy for a business is backing initiatives that simultaneously foster business growth.

To provide an example for the aforementioned principle, the case of Coca Cola was presented: in 2007, the Foundation broadened its support to include global water stewardship programmes and community recycling programmes. Today, Coca Cola’s strategies align with the company’s sustainability platform and include economic empowerment and entrepreneurship .In 2022, The Coca Cola Foundation contributed $94.8 million to 301 organizations around the world.

In short, Coca Cola’s strategy was tackling issues that affect the planet, but that also affect their business, and they created an effective strategy that would contribute to making a positive and long-lasting impact.

The mention of Coca Cola’s action sparked a discussion among the participants, with some pointing out that organisations should make sure to do everything their economic possibilities allow them to do to tackle an issue, and some others warning against the risk of businesses using greenwashing. What is paramount when setting up a good strategy for giving is transparency and trust. Participants agreed that money is not the only value to consider, because the driving element for CSR activities should be purpose and the willingness to achieve positive change.

The discussion then shifted to answering some crucial questions.

  • Why are we engaging in philanthropy and what’s in it for us as a company?

When companies engage in activities that help the communities, they feel accomplished by being able to empower people through such initiatives. It also helps to empower employees: they are very proactive in helping others, but they need a cause to support, and that cause needs to reflect their personal interests other than the values of the company.

  • What makes us choose oneproject over another?

Every organization learns something different from the challenges that projects carry with them. The most important thing to always consider is to be engaged with the stakeholders all the time to make sure that the project is delivering the expected outcomes. According to some, even if a project doesn’t reach completion, it is not to be seen as a failure – the purpose is still there, and people will appreciate the effort. Particularly, one person mentioned that, through their projects, they allow organisations to access funds and empower people in this way.

Ultimately, what is important is to create an initiative in the first place, and then progressively take it to the next level. Even small initiatives are already enough if compared with big broad projects that might be unachievable.

  • What does it take to make agreat project?

First, the ability to take risks to lead change, followed by that of listening to your stakeholders and learning what they need. Building the project up with stakeholders from the start until a good structure is reached is the key.

Ultimately, what businesses can do is set it up and set it off: create a project with a good structure, listen to the stakeholders and take the risk to spark change. Only after you’ve done this, you can set it off and start measuring the impact.