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Guest blog post by Stefan Crets, Executive Director, CSR Europe and Louise Scott, Director, PwC

Are European associations and industry sectors working with their members to raise sustainability impact? Do they engage in collaborative projects with other sectors to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals? In partnership with PwC, CSR Europe releases a new White Paper to assess the maturity and integration of European sector associations.

Every nation in the world has signed up to the UN SDGs, which are set to be a key driver of economic growth. By doing so, the 193 UN Member States also created a blueprint for business to achieve sustainable success. However, the goals won’t be achieved without business transformation, collaboration and cooperation.

At CSR Europe, we are convinced that European sector associations have an important role to play, as they are built around community and collaboration. Sector associations can also use their position of influence to engage with the policy makers, so that corporate and sector action can be backed up by policy that will enable change.

Collaboration is key to pursue systemic changes needed in society and within business to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. Sector and multi-stakeholder partnerships can multiply positive impact, while sharing the costs. To help understand how associations can meet that potential for leadership on sustainable business, PwC and CSR Europe have combined resources to produce a new piece of research detailing how a sample of 16 member European associations are fostering sustainability thinking and action among their members.

Four key findings emerged from the research:

  • Sustainability is present across sector associations, but maturity levels vary and there seems a hesitation to help members
  • Sectors see a wide range of risks and opportunities associated with the 17 SDGs
  • There is a real gap between the sector associations’ Board Vision and activity levels, which will put economic success at risk if not closed
  • Four key areas for sector associations to improve upon are: increase collaboration, share knowledge, educate and communicate

Some sector associations have already started working with their peers. For instance, the European Aluminium Industry has defined with its members an ambitious sustainability roadmap for 2025 ‘Common Goals, Shared Action’. Whereas FoodDrinkEurope, has developed ‘a SDG knowledge platform of how Europe’s food and drink industry takes action to contribute to the implementation of the UN SDGs’.

Recommendations

The report ‘Maturity and integration of sustainability in European sector associations’ also highlights 4 recommendations.

  • Develop sectorial SDG Roadmaps
    In order to guide their sector’s shift to sustainable development, stakeholders across all sectors should support efforts to develop robust sectorial SDG roadmaps
  • Top CEO’s to set vision and rally sector peers
    CEO’s from leading companies should rally their sector peers by setting out a vision and clear goals, and should support members with training and learning opportunities. Associations have a unique ability to offer their members a platform and the encouragement and guidance to create the vision.
  • Initiate cross sector collaboration
    The interlinkages between the goals need to be understood and acted on. That will involve stakeholders from across different industry groups working together to understand these knock-on consequences and how to create solutions that minimize any negative impacts.

Encourage policymakers to facilitate sector activity
Through guidance and policy initiatives, there is an important role for policymakers to encourage and enable sector activity.

The next step for us at CSR Europe will be to pursue the dialogue to sector and industry leaders, as well as the EU Institutions on practical ways to take action around SDGs.

The results of this study and the practical way forward to move on this agenda will be discussed on 23 May during CSR Europe’s Brussels SDG Summit.

 

 

 

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In the featured image above: Ann Mettler, Head of the European Political Strategy Center at the CSR Europe’s Brussels SDG Summit today (23 May), part of this year’s European Business Summit. (Picture © CSR Europe).

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