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What is the “SDGs Wash”?

Many of you may know the word “CSR”. It stands for “corporate social responsibility” and began to draw attention in the late 1990s. Also, the word CSV (Creating Shared Value) appeared in the 2010s.  What is the difference between CSR and CSE? These two words are close but not the same.

CSR is defined as a responsibility that companies, or organizations, should fulfill as “one citizen,” not just seek profits: they are required to take appropriate action on all stakeholders, consider environmental problems, and contribute to communities. And regarding CSV, it is an idea that companies can increase their own productivity and technology by improving social regulations and challenges, using their resources.

In other words, CSR improves the company’s image and value through volunteers and donations that have little correlation with their primary business, and CSV solves social issues as a business with utilizing various resources that the companies own. So, to put it in a very simple way, it may be considered that CSR uses people and money, and CSV uses people, technology and knowledge to contribute to the society.

Are you wondering that you haven’t seen yet the word written in the title of this statement?

It is natural that each company interprets things differently, but we, the editorial department of ecoist, get a feeling of strangeness about interpreting SDGs as an extension of CSR. This is because in order to deal with the “elimination of poverty,” which is the first goal of the SDGs, from the CSR perspective, it is no problem if money or even food is donated. Can it be sustainable?

We believe that dealing with the issue from the CSV perspective is SDGs; for example, teaching those who are facing poverty the abilities and skills they can get paid for at work, or developing a market where they can get a job.  We also wonder that, since SDGs are not an extension of resources such as technology and knowledge possessed by companies, it may be difficult to be sustainable.

Although there is no prejudice against CSR, but we strongly feel the tendency that it is regarded as a mere measure to improve the corporate image. We also suppose that, in the past several years, even the efforts for SDGs are treated in the same way. And under these circumstances, the word “SDGs Wash” might have appeared.

The origin of this word is “whitewash,” and it means something that hides a wrong or illegal action. “Greenwash” was born as a coined word from this whitewash. It is used when criticizing companies that show as if they provide their products and services being environmentally conscious to their customers. In recent years, more and more electric power companies are appealing renewable energy since the liberalization of electricity retailing, some companies seem to be appealing power supplies that utilizes the FIT system, which are not strictly renewable energy due to the configuration of the power supply, as if they are renewable energy.

Then since SDGs were agreed by the United Nations in 2015, the term “SDGs Wash” began to be used as some companies used SDGs to improve their corporate image despite there is no fact of efforts or contributions. Remember that SDGs are a common understanding for humanity to co-exist with and survive on the Earth, and not a marketing strategy.

2019.08.23