Purpose is key to work-place satisfaction and the reason why people chose to work in the charity sector. Charities don’t have a monopoly on purpose though, staff across all sectors are motivated by the idea they are making the world a better place. In fact 83% of Millennial employees (born in 80s to mid-90s) say they will be more loyal to a company that takes its corporate social responsibility seriously and Gen Z (under 25s) are said to be the first generation to prioritise purpose over salary.

So, businesses have to be savvy about their social purpose if they want to attract young staff and customers. And for charities this means there’s a growing opportunity to work with businesses who have similar social goals to your cause.

Earlier this year, SCVO commissioned research to explore what people working in the public and private sector think about charities. This was done to uncover some of the reputational barriers that may impact on organisations’ ability to successfully work in partnership with the public and private sectors over the next few years.

One thing that came up was that the private sector values clear impact reporting and can get frustrated with the soft storytelling approach of charities. This creates a challenge for charities who are used to spending their limited comms resources on impactful stories designed to grow donations.

So, SCVO invited a panel of experts from businesses to speak at the Gathering to explore how charities can work with businesses better to deliver shared goals. The Changing Face of Corporate Social Responsibility panel confirmed that the shift towards socially responsible business practice accelerated during the Covid pandemic and in response to movements like Black Lives Matter.

Businesses are now actively focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals alongside their bottom line. In fact, as our research also highlighted, some banks are now providing funding directly linked to achieving ESG goals as well as profit.

The clear message from the panel was that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals framework is the tool businesses are chosing to measure their social impact.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created as a set of global goals related to the environmental, political and economic challenges that we face as humanity. In 2015 the UN chose 17 objectives that it thought were universal and had the power to transform the world up to 2030.

They are a universal call to action to respond sustainably against the threat of climate change, have a positive impact in the way we manage our fragile natural resources, promote peace and inclusive societies, reduce inequalities and contribute to prosperity.

Scottish charities will be able to identify at least one of the 17 that applies to them. SCVO, for example, works directly on Goal 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Goal 17, Partnerships for the Goals, and indirectly on many more.

Businesses are attracted to the SDGs because they provide a clear social impact framework for them to work on, and each goal has a series of targets and indicators.

It can be tough for any organisations, including charities, to start doing things differently. If your organisation hasn’t had a corporate engagement strategy before, it might feel overwhelming to start creating one. It’s clear though that businesses are looking to engage more with charities and social enterprises and the top tip for starting a conversation is to use the UN SDGs.