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  • Writer's pictureCaterina Sullivan

What has the Royal Commission into Financial Services taught us about Corporate Sustainability?

The Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry has shed an incredible light on the danger of corporate social responsibility becoming lip service. The findings of these hearings thus far have shown that corporate social responsibility alone does not make an impact - an organisation needs to make a commitment to sustainability as a part of its core organisational and operational values in order to make genuine progress towards economic, social and environmental sustainability.

Almost all of these institutions had published corporate social responsibility plans. An overwhelming majority of these included a commitment to the Global Goals. However, these institutions found themselves in these situations because their programs and commitments were treated as side projects, not as core values within the organisation which should then have been translated into day-to-day operations.

Practices which many of us would take for granted within other industries, such as the most glaring one raised in the executive summary of the commission's interim report of not charging advice fees to people who had passed away, were raised as areas of concern. These were not included in companies' corporate social responsibility commitments because who would think about including some of the most basic of human rights in their detailed CSR plan? The breakdown of these practices occurs when companies treat a commitment to economic, social and environmental sustainability as a side project in their business, not as part of their core values.

To prevent this, organisations need to ensure their commitment to sustainability is genuine, meaningful, holistic and implemented at all levels of their organisation. When it comes to a commitment to sustainability, organisations need to make a commitment to their customers first; they need to commit to treating their customers with respect by honouring their basic human rights because a loyal consumer base can only be built on a strong foundation of respect. It is from there that companies can grow their commitment to sustainability by addressing the more challenging issues presented in the immediate and global community when it comes to topics like gender equality and climate change.

Jumping the gun with these impressive commitments to planting billions of trees and educational programs which reach millions of people before focusing on the basics allows room for these commitments to fall apart. In the same way that you cannot understand calculus until you have mastered basic arithmetic, creating a strong sustainability plan in your business requires building from the ground up.

For many of these organisations, consumer trust has been lost, and it will require a strong commitment to economic and social sustainability directly towards these organisations' consumer bases in order to rebuild this broken trust.

At Strategic Sustainability Consultants, our approach to sustainability is a bottom-up approach by establishing the foundations of sustainability into your day-to-day operations before embarking on a journey to scale-up your commitment. If you are in need of a sustainability plan or a revisit of your exisiting sustainability plan to fill some of those foundational gaps, contact a member of our team today!

This article was originally published on the Strategic Sustainability Consultants website.

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