Study reveals impact of PR on Sustainable Development Goals

An analysis of the social impact of PR and communications agencies has revealed that 80 per cent of practitioners have helped meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their work.

Simon Francis presenting the new definition to the PRCA Conference last year
Simon Francis presenting the new definition to the PRCA Conference last year

The 17 SDGs are a framework to "achieve a better and more sustainable future" by addressing a number of global challenges, including inequality, climate, and environmental degradation.

The survey of PR professionals, launched by the PRCA Council, revealed that just over a third of respondents had declined or refused to engage in 'greenwashing' and 'astroturfing' campaigns for clients.

Over 35 per cent said their work was helping to achieve gender equality, with similar numbers reporting they have helped ensure healthy lives, promote sustainable economic growth and build resilient communities.

While three quarters of respondents have encouraged workplace diversity through positive employment practices, two thirds had encouraged philanthropy and giving, with similar numbers involved in genuine corporate social responsibility programmes.

Last year, the PRCA launched a new definition of the social impact of PR.

Simon Francis, founder member of social enterprise Campaign Collective, worked on the new definition and said that it is the responsibility of all practitioners to understand the social impact of PR and be aware of the actions they are taking.

"From PR Apprenticeships to working with Social Enterprise UK to buy social in the supply chain, PR and communications can have a huge positive impact on society, over and above the impact of the work of communicators," he added.

"The new test will give agencies and in-house teams an easy way to calculate the social impact of their work and gain a social impact star rating to promote their organisations. We will be using this to report on our own social impact, which in turn makes us more attractive to prospective clients."

PRCA director general Francis Ingham said the social impact of PR is hugely important, and the communications industry can have a hugely positive role to play in the world.

However, just 17 per cent of practitioners had used social enterprises in their supply chain.

Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK, said an easy way to help meet the SDGs was to buy from social enterprises and businesses that trade with a social purpose.

He added: "Whether its stationary supporting female entrepreneurs in the Global South or coffee creating jobs for the homeless, switching to social enterprises suppliers will enable you to use your everyday business spend to change lives and make the vision behind the SDGs a reality."

"It is fantastic to see that the PR industry is playing its part in helping meet the SDGs. If we’re to achieve these ambitious targets, then all businesses need to be actively considering and addressing their social and environmental impact.

To take the test and identify your own social impact score, visit here.

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