Guest post by Matteo Privitelli, CORE Platform

The business sector is an integral part of society and the decisions taken within a corporation have huge consequences on both society and the environment, both good and bad. A firm might be in excellent economic conditions but unless its positive contribution to people and planet is in balance with its profits, it should not be considered a successful venture. Business ethics does not suggest that a corporation generates a ton of profit at the expense of the environment, or at the expense of any group of society. 

Today we discuss the need for a well-executed plan to elevate ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ in Malta and establish it as common practice. Matteo Privitelli, from CORE Platform, has spent the past 5 years working on a national action plan, and is sharing his findings in today’s blog post.

CORE Platform and the NAP on CSR for Malta

Ever since its creation as the national platform on CSR in Malta in September 2015, CORE Platform, which is a registered Voluntary Organisation, has grown a lot and has formed part of numerous CSR initiatives with local councils, NGOs, businesses, and local communities. Despite still being very small and having limited resources, the impact the organisation has made, and is making, is large, particularly in the field of corporate social responsibility and sustainable development, and its network of contacts is increasing with every passing day.

CORE Platform, which is under the patronage of Her Excellency, is made up of the business institutions in the country, namely the Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry; the Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association (MHRA); the Malta Employers’ Association (MEA); the Malta Business Bureau (MBB); the General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU); and SOS Malta, which is representing the NGOs.

CORE Platform is also member of CSR Europe, which is the largest CSR lobby group in Europe, which also gave the organisation the opportunity to showcase and promote CSR initiatives, while also discuss matters related to the subject at a European level. The organisation also became a member of the European Alliance for Apprenticeships in May 2017 and in March 2018 CORE Platform became a member of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) Mediterranean and SDSN Youth.

CORE Platform has been engaged in a number of local and European projects. Since the organisation is an enabler and tries to work with as many stakeholders as possible, all of these projects were done while working closely with other stakeholders. Its most recent project is the National Action Plan on CSR for Malta.  Almost every other EU Member State has a strategy on CSR and, therefore, it was crucial that work started on creating such a plan. Thankfully, through the support of the Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation, the organisation received the funding to embark on this much-needed project.

The specific objectives of the project were the following:
1) Finding out which businesses have a CSR strategy in place and which CSR initiatives or actions are priorities for Malta. A further objective was then to raise awareness among the business sector, local government, and civil society on CSR.
2) The research helped in drafting and, then, finalising a National Action Plan on CSR for Malta. This plan will give guidelines to Maltese businesses on how to become more engaged in their local communities and on how to become more responsible and sustainable.
3) The National Action Plan will be made available to businesses, especially those that have not yet set up a CSR strategy and will encourage them to change their behaviour and model to favour a more responsible sustainable approach.
4) For the project to be successful, an online space in the form of a webpage on CORE Platform’s website was created. This is accessible to all and will give more insight on the National Action Plan as well as on any CSR initiatives being done in Malta. This online space can be used by any entity or business in Malta to post or comment about any initiatives or ideas they are doing or plan on doing. Apart from the online space, there was also a campaign that raised more awareness about CSR and helped get people more involved and engaged in the project.
In addition, a number of stakeholder meetings with government ministries, local entities and businesses were held, together with workshops, all of which contributed towards the final development and creation of the National Action Plan on CSR for Malta. This plan will ultimately benefit all the business community and society as a whole.
The National Plan aims to support businesses in Malta to foster a culture of responsible corporate practices within both the workplace and the marketplace, create sustainable and fair relationships with employees, clients and suppliers, embrace diversity, build positive relationships with the community and take due consideration of their impact on the environment.
These aims are expected to be met by:
* Building awareness amongst businesses, employers and employees on CSR and on the benefits of fostering responsible business practices;
* Providing guidelines and supporting resources to develop effective CSR practices;
* Aligning the goals of this Action Plan to the national objectives and to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).
Whilst there is a growing awareness of the demand for responsible corporate behaviour amongst businesses in Malta, research has shown that one in three businesses are not aware of the term CSR. Businesses in Malta are already carrying out activities which could be construed as CSR initiatives, mainly through charity work. Having said this, there is a lack of understanding that strategic implementation of CSR within a company leads to enhanced business operations and gains in competitive advantage.
This Action plan develops guidelines to support businesses in the effective development of their CSR programmes, by providing examples of CSR activities. These examples are not intended to serve as an exhaustive list of all of Malta’s needs but rather to provide guidance on how CSR can be embedded within the business decisions and day-to-day activities. 
This tool uses the UN SDGs as a framework for objectives to formulate CSR approaches to ensure that businesses operate within an inclusive and fair society and a prosperous economy, mitigate climate change and its impacts, and protect the environment.
Under each one of the 17 SDGs, examples of CSR practices are provided to identify desired outcomes that can be achieved through initiatives undertaken by businesses, and the impacts expected to arise from them.
These activities target four main dimensions of CSR: the workplace dimension to engage with the needs of employees, the marketplace dimension to address the company’s interactions with clients and suppliers, and the environment and community dimensions to enhance its wider impacts.
In order for an enterprise to engage in CSR, it must carry out a thought process. This would involve:
* Priority Area – Identifying an SDG or a few SDGs that the enterprise would focus on.
* Desired Outcome – Defining the outcomes that the enterprise wants to achieve by the initiative.
* Initiatives – Developing initiatives that enable the enterprise to meet the expected impacts. Setting timelines, deadlines, and targets will allow for this to be more successful.
The Government plays an important role in serving as a facilitator of CSR by encouraging businesses, through its national policy and programmes, to adopt CSR practices within their operations.

Whilst CSR activity is primarily industry-driven, measures to be implemented by the Government are aimed to support the adoption of socially responsible practices by businesses. In this regard, local councils are important stakeholders in communities as they have good understanding of the local concerns and priority areas, whilst being able to build effective relationships with the business community and with Non-Governmental and Voluntary Organisations in the locality.

Measures to support the implementation of the Action Plan
Implementing Body
  1. Set up an implementing body for the measures in this Action Plan, which is to develop a programme to drive and support the Plan.
Communication
  1. Identify existing and emerging Government policy relevant to CSR to examine ways in which such policies can be supported by businesses through their CSR activities.
  2. Communicate the National Plan with businesses and employers representative bodies to encourage and support their members to develop CSR initiatives.
  3. Raise awareness of CSR and its benefits through the relevant Government departments and through businesses and employers representative bodies.
Supporting and Promoting CSR
  1. Create supportive information material on CSR to be disseminated to businesses through business and employers representative bodies.
  2. Develop a platform for businesses to cooperate on CSR activities, in a manner which creates the necessary critical mass for initiatives to have sustained impacts over the longer term:
·     The platform would highlight the priority needs for the country and main areas of interest currently covered by CSR activities; 
·       It would identify gaps in CSR activities relative to national needs;
·     It would enable the measurement of achievement of CSR initiatives and highlight needs for corrective action over time.
  1. Encourage the participation of large businesses in CSR practices and raise awareness of the value of responsible corporate practices to attract and retain valuable talent towards the company as well as their positive impact on the wider community.
  2. Encourage and promote good governance practice in the reporting of CSR activities in the Annual Reports of large businesses. Inform large businesses with over 500 employees on the obligations of the Non-Financial Reporting Directive, and encourage them to align their CSR programmes with international guidelines and principles.
Supporting and Promoting CSR
  1. In liaison with the relevant Ministries, organise an event for the official launch of the National Action Plan.
  2. Establish a programme to identify and reward CSR activity amongst enterprises, with awards being presented in a variety of areas of CSR in a National CSR Awards Ceremony.
Mentorship
  1. Implement a Start-Up Mentoring Programme to support entrepreneurs in building profitable ventures and to realise the benefits of social and environmental responsible business practices. 
Monitoring
  1. Monitor evolving trends in the implementation of CSR in businesses and identify best practices through relevant tools and studies.
For more information about CORE Platform or the National Action Plan on CSR for Malta, kindly contact Mr Matteo Privitelli, the organisation’s Executive, on matteo.privitelli@core.org.mt.
You can also watch a presentation video about the CSR National Action plan published during Earth Week Malta here

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