Key CR&S Trends to look out for in 2023

Jennie Galbraith, Chair of the ICRS

ICRS Chair, Jennie Galbraith, gives her perspective on the key trends to look out for in 2023.

From the continued cost of living crisis to the incoming raft of ESG regulation, CR&S issues will continue to play a significant role in the year ahead. ICRS Chair Jennie Galbraith shares some key themes to watch in 2023 and what they mean for us as practitioners.

Transparency Calling

The end of 2022 and the start of 2023 saw the EU reach a deal on deforestation-free supply chains and approve new pay transparency rules while the highly anticipated German Supply Chain Act came into force. These laws are moving companies swiftly towards establishing more robust due diligence processes to identify the human rights and environmental risks within their supply chain and publicly disclose elements of their findings and mitigation actions. As a result, the level of transparency required will be greater than ever before and continues to show the importance of integrating environmental and social criteria into standard procurement and risk processes from the start.

A Green and Pleasant Land

Biodiversity commitments reached a milestone in 2022 at the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) with the adoption of the Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF). The GBF aims to address biodiversity loss, restore ecosystems, and protect indigenous rights. The plan includes concrete measures to halt and reverse nature loss, including the 30x30 provision to protect 30% of the land and sea by 2030. However, accounting for the value and risks of biodiversity is still a relatively new area, with few companies having well-established internal frameworks and systems to measure their impact. This year, expect to see more focus on this and the broader adoption of frameworks such as the Taskforce for Nature-related Disclosures (TNFD) and the Forest, Land and Agriculture (FLAG) Guidance.

The E in DEI – Equity

The newest theme in the Diversity and Inclusion space is equity, which will likely dominate discussions in 2023. The EU’s Pay Transparency Rules will move companies towards more significant disclosures on pay and reveal structural issues preventing equity from being realised. On the ground, the raft of strikes we see in the UK, from rail to postal workers and nurses, has shown the true effect of long-term inequity between industries and the real-life impact this has on individuals across the country.  

Decarbonisation – the continued race to zero

Against the backdrop of the ongoing energy crisis and lacklustre outcomes of COP27, 2023 is the year that high-emission sectors within the UK will be required to publish their Net Zero transition plans. The Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) was launched last April to develop a ‘gold standard’ for climate transition plans in the UK and has made a series of recommendations on what ‘good’ plans should include, such as GHG reduction targets, key milestones and their financing, and governance structures. Many high-emissions companies have already published their Net Zero roadmaps but expect the number of companies disclosing to grow in the continued race to zero.

Greenwashing v. Greenhushing

The truth behind companies’ sustainability claims was put to the test in 2022 thanks to the Green Claims Code and investigations launched by both the Consumer Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Agency. Companies including Innocent, HSBC, and Tesco have faced investigation, pulled adverts, or been fined for publishing misleading environmental claims. This has led to the new term, greenhushing, where companies keep their sustainability achievements to themselves for fear of greenwashing accusations. These investigations and lawsuits will shift how brands communicate to consumers. Consumers are very keen to know the ESG credentials of their favourite brands and keep those consumers sceptical of the claims being made.

Innovative Community Partnerships

The lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on Community partnerships and volunteering programmes can still be felt, with the combined challenges of having fewer staff to engage and the growing need within the charity sector for continued and greater support. Shifts towards virtual volunteering were a value-add innovation, but challenges remain with the cost-of-living crisis continuing to affect communities and employees. As a result, CR&S professionals will have to continue to innovate their partnership approaches to deliver shared value for the business and community without increasing the burden on charity partners.

What does this mean for us as CR&S professionals?

The war for talent continues, and as discussed at The ICRS Exchange, CR&S practitioners struggle to maintain resilience in the face of overlapping crises. Interest in CR&S topics has never been greater. CR&S jobs have boomed in the past year but finding candidates with the right combination of skills and experience remains challenging. To future-proof our strategies, teams, and our mental health in 2023, we will need to ensure our work aligns with the goals of our organisations, that our teams and those throughout the business have the CR&S knowledge they need, and that we, as practitioners support and learn from each other.