A new survey has revealed 77% of New Zealand businesses actively contribute to the community however 60% do not currently measure their community involvement.
The research shows that corporate giving is motivated by a range of business objectives that go beyond a philanthropic sense of responsibility.
Survey responses cited corporate giving, or corporate social responsibility initiatives (CSR), as holding meaning for key stakeholders including staff and customers, yet few businesses are measuring their investment to see if results align with intentions.
The London Benchmarking Group (LBG) is a global network dedicated to the measurement and reporting of corporate community investment worldwide. LBG New Zealand Director, Simon Robinson, explains that businesses are increasingly aware of the need to measure CSR in line with all other aspects of business.
"Measurement adds meaning to the work and enables organisations to be sure community investment programmes not only serve a strategic purpose but also have a genuine impact. Businesses measure all other areas of investment, so why not this? Using the LBG methodology, businesses can see where, why and how they are investing and increasingly whether they are making a difference," he says.
Survey respondents were asked to detail the ways in which their organisation contributed to the community with cash donations and sponsorships making up almost half of the total, followed by employee time (volunteering) and 'in kind' support (goods or services gifted).
According to respondents the most popular sectors for corporate investment are in education and with young people, followed by health, the environment and then aid/emergency relief.
David Wilson of AUT University's Institute of Public Policy says that insights garnered by measuring CSR can enable both business and the community to achieve better outcomes.
"Measuring the impact of these types of activity is notoriously difficult, however this should not deter us from attempting to gain better insights into CSR activity. The ideal would be to have robust and uniform measures that can be used by corporate and community organisations alike. That way a better alignment of values and resources can be achieved and a more realistic assessment of impacts can be represented. This may go some way to reducing cynicism about CSR and ensuring corporate contributions are meaningful and their activities are helpful," he says.
Among the large businesses measuring the impact of their community investment are BNZ and New Zealand Post Group. BNZ has recorded over 10,000 volunteer days over the last 3 years; the equivalent to over 35 year's community service for one person. In 2010, their volunteering participation rate reached a record 82%.
Michael Field, Manager Sustainable Development at BNZ, says measurement and reporting is important as it is intrinsically linked to achieving business goals.
"Our community goals have become our business goals and therefore part of our company culture. Our people are very enthusiastic about supporting our local communities through volunteering, which has made BNZ's Closed for Good scheme New Zealand's biggest corporate volunteering initiative. Analysis of this programme allows us to ensure we are making a difference in the areas that mean the most to us and our community," he says.
Sophie Heighway, Corporate Sustainability Manager at New Zealand Post Group, says community initiatives are fundamental to their connection with New Zealanders and to achieving their goal of creating shared value for their business, employees, customers and communities.
"Regular monitoring and assessment have been key to the success and longevity of our Community Post programme - our flagship community programme supporting the non-profit sector throughout New Zealand. The programme has been reshaped year on year, since we started using the LBG measurement framework and found we weren't as focused on community investment as we thought we were," she says.
The 'Business and the Community' survey also found:
77% of organisations contribute to the community
81% believe that businesses have a responsibility to practise CSR
60% of organisations do not currently measure the impact of corporate giving
60% of respondents believe that an established methodology for measuring community investment would add value
70% of respondents think a company's CSR programmes make it a more desirable employer
80% of organisations do not have a role dedicated to CSR
66% of organisations contributed to the Christchurch earthquake relief effort
75% of respondents believe the business community did enough to assist the relief effort
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