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ESG and CSR: Understanding the difference between them

By Jade Miles | 19 September 2023

In today’s business landscape organisations are changing. Sustainability isn’t just being normalised, it is being sought out. Customers, investors and team members alike are giving their money or loyalty based on how organisations are focusing on sustainability. ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) are terms often used interchangeably, but are they the same thing?

Let’s dive into the differences between and explore why ESG matters to everyone in your organisation.

Unravelling the Distinctions

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

CSR has been a well-established concept for decades. It often involves activities like charitable donations, community involvement and sustainability projects. While CSR is essential for building a positive reputation and goodwill with customers, clients and local communities, it tends to be more limited in scope. CSR is a framework that defines a companies activities and lets it report its own efforts to itself or stakeholders as it chooses.

Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG)

ESG, on the other hand, takes a more comprehensive and integrated approach to corporate responsibility. It encompasses a wider range of factors that affect an organisation’s long-term sustainability and performance. Here’s a breakdown of each component:

  • Environmental: considers an organisation’s environmental impact, including its carbon footprint, resource usage, and efforts to reduce waste and emissions.
  • Social: evaluates an organisation’s treatment of its employees, diversity and inclusion policies, relationships with communities, and adherence to ethical labour practices.
  • Governance: assesses an organisation’s corporate governance structure, transparency, and adherence to ethical business practices.

Why ESG matters to all employees

Now that we understand the difference between ESG and CSR, let’s explore why ESG should be on the radar of every employee in your organisation, regardless of their role.

  1. Holistic responsibility: Whilst you may be lucky enough to have an ESG lead in your organisation, or a group of people tasked with waving the ESG flag, ESG is not limited to a specific department or a singular person’s responsibility. It’s a collective effort that involves every facet of your organisation. From the CEO to entry-level, everyone plays a role in ensuring that the company aligns with ESG principles.
  1. Reputation and client trust: No matter what industry you are in, your reputation is important. Customers, clients, investors and employees increasingly consider ESG factors when choosing who to partner, invest in or work for. Employees who are knowledgeable can articulate your organisation’s commitment to responsible practices, enhancing client trust and loyalty.
  1. Long-term value: ESG is not just about ticking boxes or meeting regulatory requirements. It is about building a sustainable future for your company. When employees understand and embrace these principles and practices, they contribute to the long-term success and resilience of the organisation.
  1. Innovation and efficiency: ESG often leads to innovative solutions and operational efficiencies. Your employees who engage these principles and practices may identify opportunities for improvement in processes, technology and resource management. We see this ourselves daily with our clients who adopt automated business processes, to replace older paper-based processes.
  1. Employee engagement: ESG can be a powerful driver for employee engagement. When employees feel that their work contributes to a greater purpose, they are more motivated and satisfied. This can lead to higher retention rates and a more vibrant workplace culture.


In today’s business landscape, ESG has become a fundamental element of corporate responsibility. It goes beyond the traditional boundaries of CSR, encompassing environmental, social and governance aspects. It is important that everyone in your organisation understands that ESG is not just the responsibility of a single person or department; it’s a shared commitment that involves every employee. By recognising the importance, your organisation can thrive, build trust with clients, foster innovation and create a sustainable future.

As you look to the future of your organisation, and adapt to the evolving business environment, remember that ESG isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a path to a more responsible, resilient, and successful future for your company, its customers, clients, investors and team members.

About the author

Jade Miles

Jade is the Group Marketing, PR and Communications Director at OASIS Group. She has worked in the information management industry for almost a decade and writes on a majority of topics, including ESG and sustainability which is a personal passion of hers.

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