I have been privvy to a lot of conversations where the value of community investment has been questioned, even today (March 25, 2020!!!). I am working with a highly respected global company with a business-focused, high impact community investment approach. Policy language drafted by other parts of the business illustrates a complete lack of understanding of how the community investment team does its work, how that work creates value for the business, how community investment differs from community relations and … well … why that even matters!
LBG Canada was launched in 2005 from the desire to demonstrate the value of social & community investment by business – in all its forms. At that time, the CSR agenda in Canada was just beginning to emerge and the community investment agenda was following the path seen in other countries – but most specifically – in the UK.
The period 1995-2005 (approximately), was quite frustrating for many British CI professionals. Why? As the CSR agenda emerged in response to highly damaging corporate actions (i.e. Ken Sera-Wiwa/Brent Spar), corporate leaders began to ask some important, legitimate questions. They questioned why, after decades (some centuries) of giving to community, why did that track record of community investment and philanthropy not protect them from CSR-related criticism? As long as that question remained unanswered, the perceived value of community investment diminished among senior leaders with power to grant budget approval.
Actually, the answer was (and remains) quite simple. Community investment was not (and still isn’t) CSR. Any community investment professional will tell you that their work is an essential, distinct component of a CSR program but it is not in itself CSR. It also isn’t community relationships, stakeholder relations or community engagement – yet it is a vital and essential piece of a strategic approach to any of the above.
Because it is entirely voluntary, community investment offers employees, surrounding communities, customers, governments and other stakeholders direct insight into corporate leadership and culture. As community investment budgets rely upon senior level support for investment into the well-being of others, it is a publicly-available barometer of authenticity. It is remarkable to me that many companies emote about their purpose yet have a very limited budget to voluntary invest a significant portion of pre-tax profit into the well-being of the communities that contribute to those profits.
We are starting to see some strategic responses by corporates to the COVID-19 Crisis. These responses will play a critical role in protecting the foundations of our society. Community investment matters. Yes, to us the profession, but more importantly to those people & communities impacted, to the employees engaged in it, and to the businesses that thrive because of it. Let’s name it. Celebrate it and do more of it. #CIMatters.
In the midst of adjustments to remote working, companies are developing responses to COVID-19.
We have seen many announcements regarding support to employees, the next wave will be voluntary actions to support communities outside the business, i.e. those most impacted by layoffs and the direction for social distancing and self-isolation.
What is needed includes investments into serving the most vulnerable, i.e. food banks, shelters, service providers offering respite to people in need. Some early announcements from within Canada include Enmax (https://bit.ly/3ajgXyz) and RBC (https://bit.ly/2wDtPRd). In the US some examples include, Black Rock (https://bit.ly/2QIqass), and the New Balance Foundation (https://bit.ly/3bqrasT) .
Resources are being made available, such as this thoughtful article found on the CECP (https://bit.ly/2vPDUdF) and these resources offered by Benevity (https://bit.ly/2y9pt4V ). Imagine Canada is convening a town hall March 26 for businesses to come together, share their thinking and options for response, you can still register here (https://bit.ly/33MPHWC ).
These are unprecedented times. Corporate community investment will play a key role in our overall response to the virus threat, and even more, to how we collectively keep our communities safe and have a stable foundation to build and repair from. #CIMatters.
A new coalition has been launched to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by targeting business operating in developing countries. The SDG500 is a coalition of private and public sector organizations, non-governmental organizations and private equity firms.
The investment platform will target businesses across the agriculture, finance, energy, education and healthcare sectors in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean and Pacific regions.
The SDG500 will offer six underlying funds aimed at addressing the finance gap that can impact start-ups and disruptors in these areas; as well as, a focus on gender and empowerment of women for some of the funds.
To learn more about the coalition, please click here.
Each month, our friends at the Atlantic Corporate Volunteering Council host engaging conversations with leaders in corporate citizenship focused on employee giving and volunteering, titled Listen Up! March’s episode featured author Dan Heath and his new book Upstream: How We Solve Problems Before They Happen.
Heath explores the importance of upstream thinking, and how to prevent problems before they happen, drawing on insights from interviews with real-world problem solvers and their unique/unconventional ideas.
The next webinar will be held April 8th. To register please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canadians Engage in International Social Value Movement
Are you familiar with Social Value Canada (SVC) – the essential Canadian resource in the advancement of social value thinking among leading corporations, government bodies, non-profits and charities. Interested in the social value movement? Check us out! www.socialvalue-canada.org
International Corner – Corporate Citizenship’s 2020 Actions For Business
It’s not just the start of a new year, but a new decade, and our friend’s at Corporate Citizenship have released their new report 2020 Actions for Business, which highlights the topics and challenges they believe will shape the years ahead in the CSR world.
Now is the time to make strides towards entwining sustainable and responsible business issues with business strategy!
Dates For Your Diary
Imagine Canada Town Hall – March 26th
Deadline to Submit LBG Canada Data for Audit – March 31st
ACVC April ListenUp! – April 8th
Insights Reports – April 30th