Critically discuss the role of business in helping tackle the SDG problems facing society

11.1 Assignment 1:  Individual Critical Essay


Essay Title:


“Critically discuss the role of business in helping tackle the SDG problems facing society”.


The aim of assignment 1, is to provide students with a deeper understanding of the SDG goals within society as well as the role of Corporate Social Responsibility within the international business environment. This assignment will allow students to:


  • Demonstrate a critical awareness of the role of Corporate Social Responsibility alongside environmental responsibility for sustainable business development
  • Develop a critical understanding of essential issues in Corporate Social Responsibility, including the normative case (ethical theory) as well as the business case for a range of industry sectors
  • Understand the conflicts and barriers to implementing Corporate Social Responsibility within business environment
  • Develop a critical understanding of a range of theories and concepts relating to Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Appreciate the conflicting wants of business and society with regard to issues of globalisation, development and social justice.


This assignment is designed to get students thinking about the importance of the SDG goals and the ways in which business have tackled them. In this instance, we are looking for beyond basic essay technique (introducing the question, what they understand it to mean and signposting how they will address it, paragraphs of narrative developing arguments that move beyond description of what researched authors think/propose and summarised with a clear indication of position). The hope is that most answers will include:


  • Use of a wide range of literature
  • Clear theoretical foundation regarding the development of CSR and the business case for it: Probably around the development of CSR (see table below or something similar)
  • A clear definition of the SDG goals and CSR
  • Clear examples which go beyond just describing how business can tackle SDG goals


Development of CSR 


CSR dimension  Characteristics of corporate behaviour  Risks & benefits of assuming this dimension 
No obligation  Firm refuses to recognise any problem or to assume responsibility for negative externalities. Used as a form of self-protection to avoid short-term costs of improving the situation Loss of consumer confidence and market share combined with higher long-term costs of improving the situation and possible regulatory scrutiny
Obligation  Response is minimal and essentially unwilling. Firm only meets changing societal expectations when they have been codified into externally imposed legal requirements A defensive position requires constant effort to maintain status quo in a changing business environment. Doing the minimum may not be sufficient for future business survival
Responsibility  Firm performance is compatible with current social norms, values and expectations. It remains ahead of legal requirements by adapting to social change as it occurs Firm is more flexible in its response to changing societal expectations. Being proactive enables it to gain legitimacy at a lower cost than reacting
Responsiveness  Firm anticipates changes or problems that may arise, initiating policies or programs to improve the situation before issues reach crisis level Acting in anticipation of emerging problems may avoid a future wave of protest against business or industry