Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)
ESGCompliance 07 December, 2023

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)

In the model of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the triad of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors has surged to prominence. Herein, internal auditors emerge as pivotal characters, assisting organizations toward a comprehensive and effective ESG landscape.

  1. What’s the difference between corporate sustainability and ESG?
  2. Why do we audit CSR?
  3. What are the key features of a CSR audit?
  4. What are some examples of a CSR audit?

What’s the difference between corporate sustainability and ESG?

Corporate sustainability embodies a broader philosophy that encompasses a company's commitment to environmental, social, and economic responsibility. It emphasizes long-term value creation through ethical practices that align with the interests of all stakeholders.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance), on the other hand, represents a specific framework for evaluating and measuring a company's sustainability performance. It assesses a company's ESG-related risks and opportunities, providing a standardized approach for investors, regulators, and stakeholders to assess corporate sustainability.

In essence, sustainability serves as the overarching principle, while ESG provides a practical tool for evaluating and reporting on sustainability performance. To further reinforce this understanding, the following is an excerpt from KPMG’s survey on sustainability reporting:

"Sustainability reporting is the communication of an organization's non-financial performance to its stakeholders. It is a process of disclosing relevant information about an organization's environmental, social, and economic impacts, as well as its governance practices. Sustainability reporting is a key tool for organizations to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and to manage their sustainability risks and opportunities."

This aligns with the broader definition of corporate sustainability, highlighting the integration of environmental, social, and economic factors into a company's overall strategy and operations.

Another resource that reinforces this distinction is "Sustainability Risk Management: Powering performance for responsible growth", wherein it states the following:

"While sustainability is a broad concept that encompasses a company's overall long-term strategy, ESG is a more focused framework for measuring and managing sustainability risks and opportunities."

This statement clearly differentiates between the overarching concept of sustainability and the specific ESG framework for evaluating and managing sustainability performance.

By understanding these key distinctions, organizations can effectively integrate sustainability principles into their ESG initiatives and demonstrate their commitment to long-term value creation while addressing societal and environmental concerns.


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Why do we audit CSR?

In today's business landscape, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become an essential aspect of corporate governance, demonstrating a company's commitment to environmental, social, and ethical practices. CSR audits play a crucial role in evaluating and verifying an organization's CSR performance, ensuring compliance with relevant regulations, identifying potential risks, and enhancing stakeholder transparency.

Internal auditors stand at the forefront of conducting comprehensive CSR audits, fostering CSR awareness among stakeholders and senior leadership. Their expertise lies in seamlessly integrating CSR principles into regular management and risk control frameworks, positioning them as trusted advisors to the organization, leadership bodies, and overall CSR integration efforts.

Beyond initial implementation, internal auditors actively participate in the organization's day-to-day ESG functions. This encompasses defining the CSR strategy, cultivating a culture of CSR, assessing CSR risks, establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), and consistently producing non-financial CSR reports.

Utilizing advanced tools like TeamMate+ ESG empowers internal auditors to provide independent assurance, assisting leaders in comprehending and addressing ESG-related risks while supporting ESG reporting. TeamMate+ ESG offers a head start on ESG audits by providing access to widely recognized ESG standards that are structured, organized, and readily mappable to objectives and risks. Supporting documents drive ESG risk assessments and audits, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation of the organization's ESG performance.

Effective CSR audits not only enhance stakeholder trust but also contribute to regulatory compliance and risk mitigation. By thoroughly examining an organization's CSR policies, procedures, and practices, internal auditors identify potential gaps or inconsistencies that could lead to non-compliance with environmental regulations, labor laws, or ethical standards. This proactive approach helps organizations avoid costly penalties, reputational damage, and legal challenges.

Furthermore, CSR audits foster risk identification and mitigation strategies. By assessing the organization's exposure to ESG-related risks, such as climate change, social issues, or data breaches, internal auditors help organizations develop effective mitigation plans. This proactive approach safeguards the organization's long-term sustainability and financial health.

CSR audits play a pivotal role in ensuring regulatory compliance, risk identification, and overall stakeholder transparency. Internal auditors, equipped with the right tools and expertise, serve as catalysts for organizations to seamlessly integrate CSR principles into their operations, fostering sustainable growth and enhancing stakeholder trust.

What are the key features of a CSR audit?

A CSR audit serves as the compass that guides an organization's journey towards effective CSR performance. The audit evaluates the alignment of organizational practices with extant sustainability standards, regulations, and social responsibility principles. Moreover, it unveils opportunities for ESG enhancement and measures the efficacy of strategies devised to foster sustainability and social responsibility.

A comprehensive ESG and corporate social audit encompasses a meticulous examination of multiple facets. This includes scrutinizing ESG-focused policies and procedures, tracking performance indicators, reviewing reports and disclosures, and analyzing contracts and agreements to ascertain alignment with CSR objectives.

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What are some examples of a CSR audit?

One example of a CSR audit may involve focusing on Human Capital Management risk. In this case, the audit would assess the organization's management of its human resources and their impact on sustainability and social responsibility. The audit may involve examining controls and practices in place to address employee turnover, such as competitive remuneration benefits and employee development initiatives. It may also include reviewing health and safety policies and procedures to ensure the organization is effectively managing any associated incidents. By evaluating these aspects, the audit aims to identify areas for improvement and ensure that the organization is effectively managing its human capital in a sustainable and socially responsible manner.

Climate change, as another example, represents one of the main ESG risks. Here, the audit would focus on the organization's preparedness and response to climate change-related risks and opportunities. This may involve reviewing the company's contingency planning to address potential disruptions caused by climate change, such as extreme weather events or resource scarcity. The audit may also include assessing supplier contracts and engagement processes to evaluate how well the organization aligns with sustainable and socially responsible practices related to climate change. When conducting an audit such as this, organizations can identify areas where they may need to adjust their strategies to enhance their overall resilience to climate change impacts and minimize their environmental footprint.


An internal auditor's social responsibility in ESG is multifaceted. It extends beyond the audit itself, ensuring that the organization has robust controls in place to manage risks and continuously enhance its CSR performance. TeamMate+ ESG offers ready-to-use frameworks that form the basis of auditing and reporting, is aligned to your audit workflow — making audit execution easier to align to your ESG objectives — and provides assurance over ESG reporting, allowing you to deliver observations and important findings to your stakeholders.

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Amin El Moutaouakil Headshot
Presales Consultant, TeamMate Audit Solutions
Based in Dubai, Amin is a Presales Consultant with Wolters Kluwer TeamMate Audit Solutions, covering North Africa and the Middle East region.
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