EXECUTIVE INSIGHT: New Directions for PwC
18 June 2014 at 9:57 am
In this week’s Executive Insight, Amanda Bartley, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC Australia talks Shared Value, taking a political stance and the trigger that changed the direction of the firm’s CSR strategy.
New trends like Creating Shared Value and Collective Impact have begun to make their mark in the CSR space.
Amongst the most vocal supporters of the shared value movement has been global firm PwC, home to more than 5000 employees within Australia.
The professional services business was included In the recently-released Australian CSR top 10 compiled by the Australian Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility.
Pro Bono Australia News spoke with Amanda Bartley, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC Australia, about strategy, shared value and staying relevant.
She says the firm has recently turned a corner in its CSR program.
“Two years ago, as a firm, PwC had elected a new CEO. It was a great opportunity to review our values, vision and strategy, including our relevance to society,” Bartley says.
“In the past it was very much about PwC doing business – with a set budget put aside for CSR initiatives. Our new leadership was really inspired by shared value.”
“When we decided we wanted to differentiate ourselves based on relevance to market and society, that was a great turning point for us.”
The change in direction saw the development of two key shared value strategies.
In collaboration with the Australian Charities Fund the company launched AskU, a mobile app that raises money for charity by asking market research questions and allowing businesses to gain "real time" insights into consumer and employee behaviour for the cost of 20 cents per question. For each question answered, 10 cents goes to programs run by Opportunity International Australia, The Smith Family, Redkite and Mission Australia.
“There was a genuine business need for our clients for real time market research…but also a need for it [the project] to address a social issue. The more successful it is, the more funds go to the community,” Bartley says.
The second initiative was the launch of PIC, which is a majority Indigenous owned, led and managed Indigenous consulting firm, which aims to create shared value – commercial activity that can deliver societal impact – by bringing cultural integrity to Indigenous projects, policies and programs on an unprecedented national scale.
Bartley says that while the company’s experiments with shared value are gaining traction, they need time well before they can tell how effective they are.
“We believe they will have huge impact,” she says. “But It’s still very, very early to tell. We need time to see whether or not they will be a success.They need an incubation period.”
“They’re under the same constraints as any other parts of our business. We do have the same rigorous controls around measuring – it’s measured in a multi-faceted way, both financial and non-financial.”
Relevance and Response
PwC’s program has proven responsive and open to adjustment, considering both the shifting global landscape and maximisation of its own ability to create change.
“As a global firm, we are looking at building trust and solving important problems,” Bartley says.
“We are looking at the megatrends, the wicked problems out there, like climate change and shifting demographics….and being humble in the part we can play.”
“We know we have a role to play because many of our clients are facing these problems themselves. Our people need to be more and more aware of the big issues in today’s society so they can face the big issues of the future…to be successful, they need to be relevant.”
A major change to improve PwC’s engagement with community will be the reworking of its partnerships system. Currently the firm partners and provides financial support to 19 Not for Profit organisations across a range of cause areas. From 2015, there will be a more strategic focus on one area – education.
“One of the things we’ve been working on alongside shared value is to transform the way we engage with community,” Bartley says. “There’s been some great combined impact through that [charity alliances] approach.
“The downside is that when asked to measure social impact, how do we do that when we’re working across so many cause areas and in an indirect way?
"A focus on education and shared value will enable us to have higher social impact but we recognise this will not involve every one of our people. We’re moving away from 19 charity partners to expand workplace giving and volunteering – with any charity, instead of one of the 19. It’s really about engagement of our people, it’s not the best way you can have social impact but it is critical to maintaining relationships with broader community.”
“We have let our community partners know that those relationships will change at the end of this calendar year.
A two day design forum with 60 stakeholders from government, community, academia and the corporate sector further moulded the firm’s new education focus.
“It was surprising what came out of it – a decision to focus on STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
“We recognise that we need to address Australia’s economic growth into the future, one of our biggest challenges. 75 per cent of the fastest growing occupations require STEM yet there is a decline in the number of students in Australia studying them.
“In order for us to be bold, to have focus, and to engage, we need it to be a big issue for our people. With this one we feel we can be part of the solution…we can relate it back to our core business,” Bartley says.
Inside Looking Out
In a climate where CSR dialogue remains somewhat limited, Bartley says PwC is keen to be vocal on the issues that matter going forward.
“We have a history of putting out a lot of thought leadership,” she says. “We want to speak out on the issues that matter to Australians. The public voice needs to be part of the business voice."
A recent campaign has sought to address what Bartley describes as an unsustainable tax system in Australia.
“We’ve been bringing groups together – with unions, corporates, and the community sector represented – to discuss this and facilitate debate.
“For the past 18 months to two years our experts in that field have been agitating for change.”
There is also the prospect of collaboration with those providing a voice for the social sector through social enterprise and innovation.
“I absolutely think we are working with them already,” Bartley says.
“I think there’s huge opportunity in shared value to seek out and collaborate [social entrepreneurs].
“Looking externally, some things we’re working on have come from our community partners. They come to us and say ‘here’s my idea, where can we go with this?’
“It’s time now for us to set up a formalised process in order to manage expectations of where things might go.”
A Sustainable Future
Internally, Bartley says PwC is successfully integrating CSR principles.
The firm benchmarks each department against the societal relevance index, and requires reporting on impact every six months. Results are linked to bonuses and remuneration, a factor Bartley says has helped deconstruct silos within the company and improve integration of CSR principles.
“There’s not really that need to have have a strong proposition around the value of CR to the business [anymore],” she says.
“Our role is becoming much more about advocating and influencing rather than taking things on and running them.
“In my view we’re a little understated here in Australia. As Porter [recent visitor to Australia and shared value expert] noted – there’s so much untapped potential here.”