Corporate Community Involvement – Good and Bad!
Monday, 14th August 2000 at 1:08 pm
A study into Corporate Community Involvement concludes that big business is becoming more ‘strategic’ in its use of community involvement to increase business benefits.
That means there’ll be some winners and probably more losers in the Not for Profit Sector as companies streamline their community involvement focus.
The study was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Family and Community Services under the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership initiative. The research was carried out by the Centre for Corporate Public Affairs and the Business Council of Australia.
Project Director, Dahle Suggett says the study’s purpose was to explore the current thinking of major Australian companies about corporate community involvement and an important aspect of the project was to identify the ways in which corporations assess the value of activities.
The aim was to understand senior management interpretations of the role and benefits of community involvement, how companies manage and conduct programs and how they evaluate outcomes.
The study shows that the current trend in becoming more ‘strategic’ and streamlining community involvement will bring some unintended consequences for the community sector and business.
The study says it’s already evident that some social issues and some organisations will be more popular with companies as they move away from the more haphazard approach to community support such as ‘reacting’ to requests and supporting ‘favourites’ of executive management.
‘Young people’s issues are of concern currently, particularly disadvantaged young people. Also rural development and regional communities are important areas for government stakeholders.’
The study suggests community organisations dealing with these groups and issues may receive greater corporate support but this may be at the expense of other target groups or lower profile social causes.
There are also a few revelations or perhaps ‘hope truths’ about the gap between big business and the Not for Profit Sector.
The study reveals that Australian corporations are concerned that the extent of their involvement in the community is not well understood. They want those in community leadership positions to develop a familiarity with the business role and to carry the business message to a wider audience.
Big business is also worried that community groups don’t speak their language! The study says terminology differs depending on one’s perspective.
Terms such as sponsorship, partnership, donations, philanthropy, contributions, social responsibility and corporate citizenship are used interchangeably and many companies find this adds a further layer of confusion when they are trying to manage all the community requests they receive.
The study suggests that this may be an area for Business Associations to focus on, to help companies interpret community expectations and in turn explain the business perspective to community groups.
On the other hand the survey says Boards and executive management also require a greater understanding of the potential business benefits that flow from deeper engagement with the community. And in a similar way, the capabilities of organisations are also improving.
‘As the demands of closer involvement with business expand, organisations should have the skills to meet business as equals.’
Of the 115 large companies surveyed about their attitudes to community involvement, about three-quarters see long term business sustainability as the prime goal of community involvement.
Surveyed companies say they want to improve the techniques to measure their involvement using social and environmental criteria as well as conventional financial performance, and increasingly they see employee participation as a key aspect of their community involvement programs.
There is no accurate estimate of the value of business involvement in community. The study quotes one estimate worth $2.2 billion in 1996; $1.8 billion in business support and another $467 million in sponsorship.
To down load the full report go to www.partnership.zip.com.au