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ESG and sustainability

ESG (Environmental Social Governance) is a framework used to assess an organisations business practises and performance on various sustainability and ethical issues. These can include an organisation’s targets on energy consumption, carbon emissions, climate change and Net Zero.

Reporting on ESG explicitly and in one place has numerous benefits for charities. Specifically, it can:

  • Demonstrate its values to funders.
  • Support bid proposals and funding applications.
  • Encourage corporate organisations across multiple sectors to partner with.
  • Increase its talent acquisition opportunities.
  • Improve staff retention.
  • Identify opportunities to improve operational efficiency.
  • Indicate its leadership and governance credentials.

When it comes to ESG it is well documented that the charity sector is lagging behind the corporate world. The challenge for charities is often knowing where to start. We need to better understand our responsibility to take account of the economic, social and environmental impacts of how we operate. We need to commit to more sustainable development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

RNIB is at the beginning stage of its ESG and Sustainability strategy. The strategy seeks to set out its current position as well as outlining recommendations for its development into a more mature approach.

Since March 2022, RNIB have reached out and engaged with a variety of corporate organisations who have provided invaluable guidance and expertise, including sharing their reporting processes and best practice in the journey they have embarked on to reach a level of maturity in this space. They include Sainsbury’s, Asda, Google, Virgin Media/O2 and more recently PwC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) and Barclays.

RNIB will start its ESG and Sustainability journey, with what is defined as a ‘baseline assessment’ from which to mature and set out a series of recommendations for approval.

There are increasing pressures on charities to demonstrate that they are making a positive impact on society and are not doing any harm to others in the pursuit of their charitable objectives. ESG concerns are already being discussed and addressed by charities, of all sizes, they just might not recognise it as such. The pandemic and cost of living crisis has forced charities to re-evaluate how they operate: the use of digital; reduced travel; office space; flexible working and alternative business models are all elements of the ESG agenda instigated by ESG risk.

In response, RNIB has assembled an ESG and Sustainability working group of which the key areas of focus will be People, Places, Products, Procurement, Ethical Fundraising and Governance. Each of these areas are represented by internal stakeholders, with the necessary expertise to bring impact and change to the measurable areas of ESG and Sustainability.

ESG is, therefore, not merely a new version of reputational risk management; it is a concept that could potentially change the way charities think about values, Purpose, attracting supporters and maximising impact.