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Corporate Community Investment: Telling Only Part of the Story

Jayesh Shah

Imagine corporate finance without profit figures. It would tell only part of the story – one of promises and commitments but not of short or long-term results.

This was the starting point for Corporate Community Investment (CCI). Companies were praised for reporting the charitable contributions they made to society (the inputs), without disclosing or really considering the outputs and real impacts of these investments.

Fast forward and the sustainability outlook has changed, and so has the approach and attitude towards CCI. Internal and external drivers have resulted in a dramatic shift in focus towards what community contributions are actually achieving for society and the business (the impacts).

Many organisations today are talking a good game about how they are ‘transforming communities’, ‘raising aspirations’ or ‘improving lives’. However, new research by Corporate Citizenship suggests that many businesses may not have credible data to back up such claims.

Released today, our research finds that there is a surprising and sizeable disparity between the impacts practitioners want their organisations to achieve through CCI, and the results which are actually being delivered.

Drawing on insights from more than 130 sustainability and corporate responsibility practitioners, we can reveal that despite 75% of practitioners saying that they want to achieve long-term impact with their CCI, less than 25% feel that their organisation is currently accomplishing this. This discrepancy has created a clear ‘impact-aspiration’ gap within business.

Closing this gap first requires an understanding of why it exists. Through our discussions with companies that are members of LBG, the global standard for measuring corporate community investment, and the insights released today, we’ve found that there are three main causes:

  • A lack of clarity over what to measure;
  • A lack of a clear approach to measurement, and;
  • A perceived lack of resources to measure impact.

To help overcome these challenges and barriers, Corporate Citizenship has developed a six-step approach that any organisation can embed to get to grips with impact.

The advantages of getting this right are wide-reaching. The business is able to better align its CCI with corporate strategy, whilst measurement can drive efficiency and effectiveness of the community programme as a whole. Practitioners themselves are also able to ease day-to-day challenges by focussing on impact, from securing budgets to finding and engaging volunteers.

What’s certain is that externally, the interest in sustainability performance metrics will continue to grow, and so will the pressure to demonstrate the value that CCI brings. It is clear that, in a world where more and more businesses are making bald assertions, having tangible and concrete data on impact has never been more important if companies want to tell the full corporate community investment story.

 

 

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