‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ is the ‘it’ word for corporates. Customers increasingly demand it and employees expect their bosses to lead by example and live it. But what is ‘it’?
In essence, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is companies putting some of their profits, time or resources into something other than their own back pockets … instead, making a difference in the community where they operate, the lives of the people who work for them, or the environment their business might have an effect on.
CSR can range from allowing employees time off to do voluntary work in the community, to contributing significant amounts of funding to a specific charity or project. It may also include businesses taking responsibility for their impact on the environment, from recycling in the office through to offsetting carbon emissions.
CSR is about organisations ensuring their employees are not only looked after during work time, but that they can have healthy lifestyles, access to good quality arts and sporting facilities, and the ability to experience the environment.
Recently, there has been a big push from Government for businesses to step-up to the mark and be good corporate citizens. Government is strongly advocating for Public-Private Partnerships for social infrastructure projects (or construction projects for the community good). They say it is no longer just Government’s responsibility to ensure that ‘community wellbeing’ projects get done.
Companies have the opportunity to leverage their investment in the community by being seen as good corporate citizens. Another approach that is garnering increased interest is creating shared value. This model is based on the idea that corporate success and community wellbeing are not mutually exclusive.
It is not only about being a good corporate citizen. Nurturing your workforce, ensuring business sustainability and good governance are vital to business success. For communities to thrive there needs to be a robust economy, creating income for the Government to reinvest and opportunities for individual philanthropy.
The benefits of CSR are wider than the immediate partnership between the business and the sponsored project:
- By example, CSR demonstrates best practice and corporate integrity.
- It meshes together business and community wellbeing, encouraging corporate leaders to be community leaders.
- Consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental and social implications of their day-to-day consumer decisions. Through their purchasing decisions, they now demand ethical behaviour from the companies that produce their consumables.
- CSR improves an organisation’s profile in the community and enables them to tell their story. Research shows there is a direct link between businesses that invest in community activities and positive public perception.
- Employees, through the company they work for, feel they have a direct and positive impact on community wellbeing, nurturing both company loyalty and personal gratification.
CSR in Hawke’s Bay
We have some outstanding philanthropic businesses and business people in Hawke’s Bay. Securing funds for a variety of projects across New Zealand has given me some insight into how Hawke’s Bay compares to other regions in terms of CSR. My assessment is that Hawke’s Bay compares well overall for philanthropic giving, as we have a proud history of corporate generosity here.
Projects such as the Hawke’s Bay Opera House, McLean Park Redevelopment, Pettigrew Green Arena, Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery and Lowe Walker Rescue Helicopter have been able to secure funds and develop on-going partnerships with many of Hawke’s Bay’s top corporate citizens. Businesses such as Furnware, Unison, Hawke’s Bay Document Technology, Hastings Pak’n’Save, Progressive Meats, IMS Payroll, Pan Pac, Farmlands and Lowe Corporation are regular funding partners for Hawke’s Bay projects and teams.
On a smaller, although just as important, level we are fortunate to have a large number of small-to-medium businesses that are willing to make investments back into the Bay. I have been overwhelmed with the level of commitment from smaller businesses when working on local projects.
It is clearly evident in Hawke’s Bay that we have a number of locally-owned and operated businesses that are willing to get in behind projects in the Bay. However, comparatively as a region we are not punching above our weight in securing funds from outside the region. National and international corporates with a strong presence in Hawke’s Bay have traditionally not been forthcoming with sponsorship.
Nationally, the sponsorship market has changed significantly in the past three decades. Previously, corporates were only looking for an opportunity to have their brand on a building or name on a plaque. Now there is a much larger emphasis on establishing on-going partnerships and more meaningful relationships with their community. Sponsors are seeking authentic, sustainable partnerships that are mutually beneficial.
Councils, government and corporates don’t want to invest in a building, they want to invest in people. For example, last year Todd Energy contributed $3 million for the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth, the largest contribution to an arts facility ever seen in New Zealand. Most of that will help fund construction of the building, but $500,000 is for the development of education programmes. Todd Energy values education and that is where it sees it can make an impact in its own community.
Progressive national and international corporations require innovative, creative and sustainable benefits that they can leverage off. They want a relationship with a project beyond opening day and offering more than their brand on show. They want to participate in the future of the project they invest in and they want their money to do enduring good – it’s the old-fashioned notion of leaving a legacy.
Tips for sponsorship
Social responsibility can be a huge beast for businesses to tackle in one go, but rationalising the company’s sponsorship dollar is a good start. Corporates wanting to grow or leverage their existing sponsorship dollar should:
- Prioritise: Identify what’s important to your business philosophy and develop a plan around that. Identifying synergies between your core business and the positive impacts your donation dollar can make in your
- Be Specific: Be clear about what you will and won’t support. Businesses are bombarded by spo
nsorship requests. Have sponsorship criteria and stick to them when you are looking to select projects.
- Expect a return: Be clear about what you expect in return for your support. Do you want regular contact or information about the cause, do you want to contribute to decision making, or do you simply want to be invited to events and have your brand recognised? You do deserve tangible returns on your investment.