Social care sustainability has to be social

The rather ‘flavour of the month’ term ESG and sustainability are not synonymous terms but are, perhaps, better understood as looking at the same issues from different perspectives.

An ESG – Environment, Social and Governance – approach is a set of standards measuring a business’s impact on society, the environment, and its transparency and accountability.  ESG comes very much from the investment community perspective.  According to the CBI, two thirds of investors take ESG factors into account when investing in a company. 

My favourite definition of sustainability is that of the United Nations Brundtland Commission which defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

But both ‘ESG’ and ‘sustainability’ are addressing the same core principle: organisational success must embrace a broader range of factors than simply that of bottom-line profit.  Long-term success requires all of us to develop new business models that respect the planet’s natural resources and that places ethical, responsible behaviour at the heart of our decision-making.

Most talk about ESG and sustainability, very understandably, focuses on the environmental elements – the ‘E’.  As a highly-regulated sector, most care providers are also very good at the ‘G’ – Governance – of ESG.

The ‘S’ in ESG, however, is often overlooked but is critical to the social care sector.

Social care delivers a huge benefit to society but just being a social care provider doesn’t mean that you tick the ‘S’ box (if box ticking is your thing!).

Whilst I would argue that the Social aspects of ESG are simply the right thing to do, for the more hard-nosed it is clear that a well thought-out Social strategy can address at least three of the key challenges being faced by the sector, namely:

  • The workforce recruitment crisis
  • The workforce retention issue
  • The poor public perception of social care

The key elements of the Social element of ESG are how organisations look after their people and how they support the local communities of which they are a part. 

At CareTech Group, we are proud that we donate 2.5% of pre-tax profits to the independent CareTech Foundation, which is doing great work to champion and support the social care sector, care professionals and those living in care.  Providing a charitable donation to the Foundation, however, is in no way the end of the story on our Community agenda.

Other key elements of our strategy include:

  • each service developing its own Community Engagement Plan;
  • supporting volunteers from our staff to serve as Enterprise Advisers in local school;
  • sourcing as much as possible from small local businesses;
  • our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion;
  • our Alternative Recruitment Strategy, enabling refugees, care-experienced young people, those with disabilities, and young people from disadvantaged communities to gain employment in the sector.

Another important element of our work has been our support of Championing Social Care ( programmes:

  • 68 services participated in Care Home Open Week last year;
  • the company has been joint Headline Partner of the Care Sector Fundraising Ball from the outset, an event that has now raised £750,000 for social care charities; and,
  • we encourage our staff and those for whom we care to show off their talents through Care Sector’s Got Talent

Through all of this, we support our people, provide an opportunity for them to give back to charitable causes and local communities, and provide an opportunity to shine a light on the fantastic work of the sector.

Research makes it very clear that companies that support and empower their people and are active parts of their local communities do better.  Staff are more loyal, more productive and deliver higher quality. 

Organisations that are visibly connecting with and supporting their local communities will attract more local talent, are less likely to trigger concerns about having a care service in the community and will promote a more positive view of the social care sector.

And there is no doubt that commissioners and regulators are increasingly looking to providers to demonstrate their social value credentials and their commitment to supporting the communities in which they operate.

In delivering sustainable growth, therefore, let’s make sure that social care puts the social at the centre of its ESG approach.

First published in Caring Times