Corporate pulling powerfor sustainable development
Around the world many communities are distressed and in turmoil. The re-emergence of right wing political parties as credible electoral options, riots in European capitals, deterioration of living conditions and the development of movements (like 'occupy' and the 'tea party') are all part of a continuum of discontent.
What all of these phenomena share in common is that, to a considerable extent, they are the product of fractured social conditions - fractures that threaten the sustainability of societies on which all progress and prosperity ultimately depends.
As a result, there is a growing perception that governments are failing in their capacity to meet and address one of the most pressing challenges of our time: sustainable development.
With governments weakened, business can help fill the void with the kind of leadership that the business community can bring to bear in the urgent task of helping to repair and sustain societies. With the right incentives and enabling environments, the private sector can make significant and lasting contributions to the sustainable development agenda.
Progressive and promising work is underway under the umbrella of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), a business led initiative involving more than 7,000 businesses in 135 countries committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
Innovative business solutions are having an impact in areas such as energy access, water security, health and carbon emissions. But to have a truly transformative effect, a quantum leap is needed.
This was precisely what was imagined when the United Nations Global Compact Principles for Social Investment (PSI) were developed. They are one of the missing pieces, designed to help guide the way in which businesses build and maintain sustainable communities.
Social investment is activity involving voluntary financial and non-financial contributions that demonstrably help local communities and broader societies to address their development priorities. This may take various forms ranging from traditional philanthropic giving to more integrated strategies that focus on achieving both commercial and community objectives. Importantly, social investment can be undertaken by organizations of all sizes and should not be restricted by industry sectors or geographic location. The PSI offer guidance to organisations seeking to pursue community and commercial practices in a manner that is purposeful, accountable, respectful and ethical.
Recognizing both the need and opportunity to further promote business engagement in sustainable development, the Principles for Social Investment Secretariat launched the 2012 Social Investment Pioneer Awards at this year’s Rio +20 Corporate Sustainability Forum. The inaugural Awards program includes five categories (Responsible Business, Inclusive Business, Shared Value, Social Business, and Strategic Corporate Philanthropy) and will recognise an SME and multinational company in each. The Social Investment Pioneer Awards provide one of the few platforms for international dialogue and learning and will showcase examples of the ways in which businesses can align commercial and community objectives. We encourage your participation.
Progress towards sustainable development will stall unless the fracturing of societies is arrested and then the damage repaired. Businesses committed to aligning commercial objectives with community considerations are part of the solution. This is not to say that governments should be sidelined or ignored. They too have a vital role in repairing and reinforcing fragile societies. But they need to be helped and business is ideally placed to assist.
For more information about the Principles for Social Investment as well as the Social Investment Pioneer Awards please visit http://p4si.org/. Entries close 30 September 2012.