The 'S' of ESG

May 07, 2024

In the dynamic landscape of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, ESG—Environmental, Social, Governance—has become more than just a buzzword; it’s a guiding framework for companies aiming to create lasting positive change in their communities and the wider world.

Understanding ESG: A Quick Refresh
The Global Reporting Initiative defines ESG as a set of standards for a company's operations that socially conscious investors use to screen potential investments.

  • Environmental: Environmental factors assess a company's impact on the environment and its commitment to sustainability.
  • Social: Social factors assess a company's labour practices, diversity, inclusion and its impact on the communities in which it operates.
  • Governance: Governance factors assess a company's risk management, its board of directors, and its executive compensation.

The environmental aspects of ESG tend to get the most attention, but make sure you don't miss out on maximising your impact via the social pillar.

Focusing on the ‘S’ of ESG

The S in ESG stands for Social. At its core, the Social pillar of ESG reflects an organisation’s commitment to social issues, employee well-being, diversity, inclusion and accessibility. Value alignment is key here - how can you address local needs, create shared value, and make a meaningful contribution to society? The answer to that question will point you towards how your organisation can best prioritise the ‘S’ of ESG.

ESG in 2024: A Shift Towards Measurable Impact

In 2024, corporate success has been redefined - environmental, social and ethical factors are now central to business sustainability, driving growth and stakeholder value. ESG strategies have transcended traditional CSR frameworks, emphasising measurable impacts on environmental and social fronts. There is global pressure for companies to enhance their ESG strategies and create a positive societal impact. Relationships between corporates and not-for-profits have evolved, moving from sponsorship (transactional) to partnership (transformative). These partnerships offer a unique way for corporates to deliver on ESG goals, particularly in the ‘S’ space.

Partnering with a not-for-profit/charitable organisation can benefit a corporation in several ways:

  • It allows the company to align its goals with a social or environmental cause, demonstrating a commitment to responsible practices beyond just profit and delivering on its ESG strategy.
  • It can provide the company with access to expertise, resources and networks that it may not have in-house. Not-for-profits are experts in delivering on social impact.
  • It can strengthen a company's reputation and brand image by demonstrating its commitment to making a positive impact in the community.
  • It can provide a company with new and more diverse audiences and customers. 
  • It can be the vehicle which demonstrates a company’s measurable, quantifiable positive social or environmental impact (which companies will need to deliver on from a regulatory standpoint).

The Big Question:

How can corporates, guided by not-for-profits, contribute positively and respectfully to the world, with a focus on social impact, sustainability and inclusivity, and deliver collaborative impact via workforces, clients, audiences, communities and environments?

Initiating a Charity Partnership to meet your Social Impact Goals

When undergoing the process of establishing a partnership with a charity or not-for-profit organisation, here are some key things that indicate a project that is well thought through and mutually beneficial:

  • The charity clearly articulates the vision and impact of their project and understands/asks how it aligns with your objectives.
  • The charity demonstrates efficiency that gives you confidence in the security of your investment.
  • The charity makes it easy for you to invest by creating a simple process.
  • The charity nurtures the relationship by making you feel included.
  • The charity keeps you updated on the progress of your investment.

Case Study: UNICEF Corporate Vaccine Alliance

In 2021, OKC was privileged to work with UNICEF Ireland on the development and roll-out of the UNICEF Corporate Vaccine Alliance, as it gave us the opportunity to bring our mission - enabling philanthropic impact – to life. The UNICEF Corporate Vaccine Alliance is a partnership between UNICEF Ireland and several Irish companies to support the global COVID-19 vaccination effort. The companies who joined the Alliance pledged to make financial contributions to the initiative and promote the campaign through their networks and social media channels. The funds raised were used to support UNICEF's work in procuring and delivering COVID-19 vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

The UNICEF Corporate Vaccine Alliance is a strong example of how companies can come together to support a common cause and make a meaningful impact via the ‘S’ of ESG – on global citizenship, global health and wider society. Joining the UNICEF Corporate Vaccine Alliance contributed positively to companies ESG profiles not only by demonstrating a philanthropic desire to do good through corporate citizenship, but also through being part of a pool of socially aligned corporates who demonstrate this commitment to investors, customers and employees.


Partnerships between corporates and not-for-profit organisations are a vital element of driving progress under the ‘S’ pillar of ESG. The impact of these partnerships in recent years demonstrates the importance of collaboration between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors in achieving sustainable and responsible practices and promoting positive social impacts.

Through collaboration, corporates and not-for-profit organisations can work towards creating a more sustainable, inclusive, and responsible future for all. At OKC, we regularly engage with corporates and not-for-profits alike to provide a holistic view of the ESG landscape and provide tailored support in the development of partnerships that can make a real difference. Find out more about how we can support your mission here.

Sarah Jordan
Marketing and Communications Manager, OKC