What Are CSR, ESG, and Sustainability & Why Do They Matter for Businesses?

Posted by Mai Hoai Thu on

As societal expectations evolve and the triple bottom line - people, planet, and profit (3Ps) - becomes increasingly vital, businesses face rising pressure to prove ethical standards and showcase their socially conscious commitment.

Alongside the ever-growing demand for ‘green’ products, consumers and investors are more interested now than ever in companies' initiatives towards responsible practices.

Read more: Diversity and Inclusion in the World of Remote Work


What Are CSR, ESG, and Sustainability & Why Do They Matter for Businesses?

What is CSR?

CSR stands for Corporate Social Responsibility. It is a concept about how businesses take responsibility for their social and environmental impact, which includes efforts to proactively contribute to communities, reduce environmental footprints, and maintain ethical business practices.

CSR activities span various areas, such as philanthropy, volunteerism, environmental stewardship, and ethical labour practices.

Read more: TRGers Reconnect with Nature through Mangrove Tree Planting CSR Activity

CSR is usually self-regulated by businesses and can vary widely in scope and quality. It is often implemented to communicate the business' values and goals to its stakeholders, such as customers, employees, investors, and regulators.

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What is ESG?

ESG stands for Environment, Social, and Governance. It is a set of standards, policies, and metrics stakeholders use to evaluate the company’s impact on society.

  • Environmental: The environmental aspect considers such factors as greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, waste management, and water conservation.
  • Social: The social aspect evaluates the interactions between the company with its employees and the local community, incorporating various areas, for example, human rights, employee diversity, labour standards, and supply chain management.
  • Governance: The governance aspect examines business management and how it ensures that it operates in the best interests of stakeholders. This may include many components, including but not limited to diversity and inclusivity, compensation, risk management, and ethical practices.

When evaluating investments, investors generally examine not only common financial indicators but also the company’s ESG rating.

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What is Sustainability?

Sustainability is the principle of conducting business operations in a manner that balances the economic, social, and environmental needs, both for the present and future, i.e., not compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

However, sustainability does not limit itself to just “being green.”

Environmental sustainability focuses on minimising or even eradicating negative impacts by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, minimising waste and pollution, and conserving natural resources.

Read more: Why Sustainability Is Important in Hospitality and the Best Practices

The social dimension emphasises advancing social equity, diversity, and inclusion through fair and safe labour practices while the economic dimension of sustainability aims to maintain long-term profitability, create economic value, and uphold responsible resource allocation.

Corporate sustainability, meanwhile, strives to ensure that businesses operate ethically, responsibly, and sustainably, contributing to the well-being of the communities in which they operate. This approach creates long-term value and benefits all stakeholders.

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Differences between CSR, ESG, and Sustainability

CSR typically involves how a company structures its internal sustainability plans and fosters a culture of responsibility, while ESG pertains to the measurable outcomes of a company's overall sustainability performance. Sustainability, nevertheless, is a broad principle that ranges widely in terms of responsible business practices, or the umbrella that both terms herein fall under and contribute to.






 Qualitative & Quantitative


 Externally regulated

 Both self and externally regulated

 Not directly related to financial performance and business valuation

 Directly related to financial performance and business valuation

 Usually related to financial performance and business valuation

 Implemented through corporate culture, values, and brand management

 Implemented through measurable goals and audits

 Implemented through the combination of CSR & ESG

 Broader benefits to society

 Influences investors’ decisions

 Long-term resilience in business operations and growth

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Benefits of Implementing CSR, ESG, and Sustainability for Businesses

Improve Reputation and Brand Image

A commitment to ESG and CSR can significantly enhance a company’s standing in the public eye. This is no longer merely about marketing but about forming a legacy of trust and integrity.

Environmentally and socially responsible companies often find themselves at the top of consumer preference lists, which results in long-term brand loyalty and advocacy.

Attract Investors

A robust business strategy integrated with social consciousness signals to investors that a company is looking ahead, prepared for regulatory changes, and proactive in sustainable practices. This can lead to a more diversified and dedicated investor base and, potentially, a premium on share prices.

Better Engage and Retain Employee

By aligning corporate values with personal values, businesses can create a work environment that upholds the benefits of their lifeblood. This leads to employees becoming more engaged, productive, and committed to the company’s long-term vision. In turn, this reduces turnover costs and builds a strong, unified corporate culture.

Comply with Regulation

In the face of increasingly rigid sustainability regulations, taking the initiative to comply can be an advantage for businesses. It protects them from the reputational damage and financial penalties associated with non-compliance, making them a quintessential example in the industry.

Increase Profitability

Sustainable practices often lead to operational efficiencies such as reduced energy consumption and waste, which can substantially lower costs. Moreover, sustainability can also help businesses expand into new markets and reach broader customer segments to foster innovation to satisfy a higher demand, which may be the motive behind potential profitability.

Mitigate Risk

Sustainability practices are about looking to the future and mitigating risks before they become ominous issues. That can be environmental risks, such as those related to climate change, or social risks, like labour practices.

By addressing these proactively, companies can avoid crises that might otherwise impact their operations and reputation. Businesses that pay little attention to these practices may put themselves at risk of various challenges. Regulatory penalties, environmental disasters, social backlash, and governance scandals can collectively lead to significant financial repercussions.

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Best Practices in Adopting CSR, ESG, and Sustainability in Businesses

Set Clear Goals and Targets

The underlying basis of any successful sustainability strategy is the development of clear, quantifiable objectives. Corporations should delineate specific targets that are not only aligned with their missions but also reflect their commitment to social and environmental responsibility. These objectives are instrumental in benchmarking progress and transparent communication to all stakeholders.

Integrate Sustainability into Business Strategies

Integrating sustainability considerations into strategic decision-making processes can help companies ensure their contribution to long-term sustainability goals while not compromising business success or profitability.

This means applying sustainability principles throughout all levels of the organisation, from product design and supply chain management to marketing and customer relations, with prudence when balancing economic, environmental, and social priorities to achieve sustainable growth and development.

Engage Stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is crucial for understanding the impact of business operations and for building strong relationships. This requires regular dialogue with customers, employees, suppliers, investors, shareholders, and even critics or industry experts. Such engagement can provide invaluable feedback and fine-tune ideas for improving sustainability practices.

Measure and Reporting Performance

Businesses may have to define relevant metrics to measure their performance against ESG and CSR goals. This data should be reported precisely and transparently, with a view to both demonstrating progress and holding companies accountable for their practices.

Reporting should abide by international standards and frameworks to ensure comparability and credibility, especially when contending with investors or regulators.

Continue Improvement

The pursuit of sustainability is an ongoing journey that necessitates the organisational culture embracing continual refinement and adaptation to changing conditions and requirements over time. Companies should attempt to keep being agile, responding to new opportunities and threats with innovative solutions that can advance their sustainability agenda.

By assimilating these principles into the core of their operations, businesses not only contribute to the general good but also secure a competitive edge in an increasingly discerning marketplace. Taking steps towards sustainability is iterative and demands constant vigilance and adaptation. However, those who commit to this path will be well-equipped to achieve enduring prosperity and relevance.

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At TRG International, we have a longstanding commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, which has been ingrained in our company culture for over three decades. Our ongoing monthly initiatives continue to make a positive impact today.

Read more: TRGers Reconnect with Nature through Mangrove Tree Planting CSR Activity

However, we recognise that in the current socio-economic landscape, simply fulfilling our CSR duties is no longer sufficient. We must take bold, high-impact actions to address the pressing challenges of our time.

With this in mind, we have come together and launched a completely new initiative, combining all three aspects of CSR, ESG, and Sustainability into one single program, and we proudly call it TRG CARES.

TRG CARES represents a shift in our focus and a long-term goal that each TRGer, as well as the company as a whole, is striving to achieve.

It centres around one key aspect: Sustainability. To achieve sustainability, we need to build, develop, foster, and take action to achieve the overall sustainable goal, both as a company and individually.

Nevertheless, we continue to organise and participate in many social activities, as they are our tradition. The program is still in its inception stage, where our dedicated TRG CARES committee is building the framework and success metrics. However, we are committed and determined to develop a full-fledged program.

We may have only touched the surface in this article, but we hope the information has inspired you to take action today. Each of us has the potential to make a change in this world, no matter how big or small our contributions are.

The world and the environment around us are changing. It is our responsibility to protect it so we can all grow and thrive sustainably.

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Rick Yvanovich

 Rick Yvanovich
 /Founder & CEO/

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