A PRCA analysis of the social impact of PR and communications agencies has revealed that 80% of practitioners have helped meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through their work.
Of the 17 UN SDGs, four stood out as the most popular; over 35% 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.
Launched by the PRCA Council, the survey of PR professionals has revealed that a third (35%) of respondents had declined or refused to engage in green washing (making unsubstantiated environmentally-friendly claims) and astroturfing (hiding the true source of a campaign to make it look grassroots) campaigns for clients.
Last year, the PRCA launched a new definition of the social impact of public relations and communications (you can see the definition here, and also get an assessment of your own social impact and a star rating), which was met with widespread approval from respondents, with over 90% backing the initial suggestions.
In addition to helping to meet the UN SDGs, the definition highlights further ways PR and communications can have a positive social impact.
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.
Simon Francis, founder member of social enterprise Campaign Collective, who worked on the definition said: ‘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.
‘It is the responsibility of all practitioners to understand the social impact of PR and be aware of the actions they are taking. 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.
‘Campaign Collective will be using this to report on our own social impact, which in turn makes us more attractive to prospective clients.’
Francis Ingham, director general of the PRCA, said: ‘The social impact of PR is hugely important, but hardly talked about. From the impact of campaigns on target audiences and helping to deliver genuine corporate social responsibility programmes and encouraging workforce diversity, the communications industry can have a hugely positive role to play in the world.
‘All communicators should take an interest in this definition as proving social impact will be vital not just in recruiting new talent and in brand campaigns, but also in organisation’s procurement systems.’
Just 17% had used social enterprises in their supply chain, which Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK commented on: ‘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.
‘One easy way to do this is to buy from social enterprises, businesses which trade to meet a social purpose. 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.’