Clarion call on corporate social justice: Businesses need to lead by example.
Irish business leaders need to step up and play their part in delivering for a new era of corporate social justice.
That’s the message from the Open Doors Initiative (ODI), the not-for-profit organisation creating pathways to education, employment and entrepreneurship for marginalised individuals.
“Ireland is a beacon that shows the transformative power that business and open trade has had on society”
Hosting a Leaders’ Summit gathering of business leaders and government last week, ODI in partnership with hiring platform Indeed provided a platform for speakers and panel discussions on the themed topic of ‘Corporate Social Justice; what is required to make an impact and its importance in today’s world.’
The Leaders Summit was held at the House of Lords, College Green, in partnership with Indeed Fund at Community Foundation Ireland and supported by Bank of Ireland, Compass Ireland, The Core Story and Wilson Hartnell.
Attendees heard how Ireland is at the cusp of major social and societal challenges, dealing with a whole range of seismic issues that will affect all aspects of our lives.
Role of business in society
Now more than ever, migration, housing pressures, climate change, diversity and inclusion, socio-economic and political challenges are affecting consumers, businesses, employees and the wider society. Corporates have a key role to play in society and can improve how we all live, now, and into the future.
“Corporate Social Justice goes beyond charity work to impact positively on the experiences of groups disadvantaged by, or worse, harmed by society”
“Corporate Social Justice goes beyond charity work to impact positively on the experiences of groups disadvantaged by, or worse, harmed by society,” said Jeanne McDonagh, CEO of Open Doors Initiative.
“It is a way of working measured by the trust between a company and its employees, customers, shareholders, and the broader community it touches, with the goal of explicitly doing good by all of them.”
She added: “Corporate Social Justice is far more than just giving back to the community; it is about bettering the society in which organisations operate. Companies are not islands with a siloed existence; their actions cause ripples throughout the communities in which they operate. Strong leadership and collective action by corporates are needed to develop societies with cohesion, that welcome diversity and offer opportunities for everyone.”
Companies are now being challenged to re-examine their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies and strategies and embrace a far more compelling and challenging Corporate Social Justice (CSJ) agenda for the world we are living in today.
The movement towards Corporate Social Justice is just beginning in Ireland and there is more to be done. Recently, the Irish business and human rights benchmark report, published by the Trinity Centre for Social Innovation, highlighted that around half of the 50 largest companies in the Irish economy are underperforming on human rights, for example.
Differentiating CSJ from the popular understanding of CSR, McDonagh said it is not just about charity work to win awards and plaudits, which can be the case with traditional CSR initiatives. Corporate Social Justice is about a companywide, leader led, holistic approach, committing to positive change in their communities and society in general.
“Each organisation has its own unique expertise, resources and opportunities they can use to make a genuine and positive impact beyond their four walls,” said Derek Diviney, Vice President at Indeed.
“Indeed’s position as a leader in the labour market allows us to make a constructive difference to the wider world of work, helping connect employers and jobseekers of all backgrounds. We are committed to helping jobseekers facing barriers, as well as business leaders, in reaching a more equitable world of work.”
He added: “Globally we have helped connect millions of jobseekers facing barriers with work opportunities, and have ambitious plans for more. We know that while talent is universal, opportunity is not – we aim to change that.”
The Irish Government is in the process of developing a second National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights, which is intended to go some way to better guide businesses to understand their human rights responsibilities. BCorp Certification and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) are also playing a part in developing this work within business and encouraging them to strive for better.
Keynote speaker, Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, said: “Ireland is a beacon that shows the transformative power that business and open trade has had on society.
“Business not only creates jobs, sustains communities, and fosters prosperity but also generates revenues that fuel our country’s future and safeguard our most vulnerable citizens. However, business cannot operate at any cost and that is why the work of the Open Doors Initiative is essential in keeping an emphasis on responsible business practices.”
Main image at top: Paddy Hayes, Chair of Open Doors Initiative and CEO ESB Group; Jeanne McDonagh, CEO of Open Doors Initiative; Simon Coveney, TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment; and Derek Diviney, VP of Sales & Customer Service at Indeed at the Open Doors Initiative’s Leaders Summit