One component of the question lies in the role of employers.  Intuitively I think we can agree that employers have much to gain from healthy, vibrant communities. But how much should employers invest? And what form should the investment take?

The 2020 SustainAbility Leaders Survey by GlobeScan of 701 sustainability experts across 71 countries can shed some light on the question.  First of all, the survey indicates that the need for sustainability development is more urgent now than ever.  Experts perceive that the urgency of sustainable development challenges is rising across the board – ALL issues tracked in this survey increased in importance since last year.

Challenges on the urgent list include environmental (e.g., climate change #1 and biodiversity loss #2), economic (e.g., poverty #6, economic inequality #7)  and social (e.g., access to quality education #9 and access to quality healthcare #10).

Furthermore, the experts are underwhelmed with the current level of investment borne by employers.  Only 17% of experts feel that employers are doing an “excellent” job addressing sustainable development.

The biggest rationale for employer sustainability development put forth in this survey is resiliency.  The survey draws a connection between internal & external community investment and the very livelihood of the employer itself.

On top of the list of to-dos to improve business resilience is “double down on environmental, social and governance commitments”.  Of course, this crowd of survey respondents (sustainability experts) might be just a teensy bit biased here.  Employers who are perceived to do sustainability well do so through strategies such as having sustainability be part of the core business strategy, and committing to ambitious sustainability goals.  Experts also go on to also identify other urgent, resilience-building investments like new business models, prioritizing employee wellbeing, partnering with government, and collaboration.

So – how can we take social sector partnerships from good to great?  One part of the answer is for employers to up their game when it comes to sustainable development.  Being proactive through  targeted investments and partnerships is win-win.