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A champion of profit and purpose

16 December 2019 at 8:21 am
Maggie Coggan
Cathy Scalzo, the CEO of the Scalzo Family Office, is using the success of her family’s food business to create great social change. She’s this week’s Changemaker. 

Maggie Coggan | 16 December 2019 at 8:21 am


A champion of profit and purpose
16 December 2019 at 8:21 am

Cathy Scalzo, the CEO of the Scalzo Family Office, is using the success of her family’s food business to create great social change. She’s this week’s Changemaker. 

Scalzo Foods may be one of Australia’s largest privately-owned food companies, but it’s focus on family values is something that sets the company apart.  

As head of the company’s social impact arm, Cathy Scalzo has effectively guided the development of the family’s impact investing portfolio to shift capital in a way that supports a number of important social causes, from homelessness to food security. 

She is also a trustee of the Grace and Emilio Foundation, which was set up in 2013 by Scalzo Foods. The business commits an amount of profits to the foundation to support charities such as Eat Up, ReachOut, and BackTrack Youth Works, which help at risk young people reach their full potential. 

Outside the family foundation, Scalzo sits on various charity and social enterprise boards, where she is fighting to unlock the potential of using capital for social good. 

In this week’s Changemaker, Scalzo talks about the right way to mix profit with purpose, why she loves her job and the importance of a corporation with social values.   

When and why did you decide to make the move from private industry into philanthropy and impact investing? 

There wasn’t a definitive point in time. It has evolved off the back of the success of the food business my father started, and now under my brother’s leadership, which has allowed us to explore other things. I am lucky to be in a family that is deeply committed to growing the food business but also curious and open to developing other areas of family endeavour. 

Philanthropy and impact investing are a natural extension of that and another means by which we can express our values.   

Why was it important for Scalzo Foods to have a social impact element to it? 

 It is important to us as a family because one of our family values is generosity. That has many forms, but in the context of Scalzo Foods it begins with our relationship with the people we work with. Employment creation is something we are proud of, ensuring the people who work with us have good jobs and the ability to support their families and to that end, growing a local manufacturing capacity in Melbourne and investing in processing operations to support primary producers in regions like Mildura. It then extends to the broader community in which we operate. 

There are many mechanisms for bringing that to life but we have prioritised committing an amount of the business’s profits to our family foundation annually, the Grace and Emilio Foundation, and to investing that corpus, and making other investments within and outside the food business in a way that makes a positive contribution to people and planet. 

An example of that within the food business is our investment in Australian Plant Proteins and, outside it, a major property development we are doing on the Maribyrnong in West Melbourne and investments we have made in the disability sector into HireUp and AbilityMade.

What advice would you give to someone in the corporate world wanting to have more impact via capital? 

I would share with them the advice I have received from others far wiser than me – think creatively about the assets, influence and decision-making power you have and turn that into an opportunity to do something that contributes positively to people and the planet. And seek out advisers and partners with the same aspiration. 

One of the most encouraging things I have seen this year is the increasing number of smart, committed people working as intermediaries, fund, wealth and asset managers with the desire to drive more capital into positive impact.   

What does your typical day look like? 

The only part of my day that is predictable is that it starts with a quick dose of yoga or a walk, followed by a fair amount of kid wrangling and a take away coffee enroute to work once the kids are safely off to school. 

The rest of the day is a mix of meetings with our internal team on operational issues, and meetings connected with investments or charities we support or are exploring. There are often conversations with peers in the philanthropy and impact investing sector as we try to support one another to make better, more impactful decisions. 

I am also a panel member on the Impact Investment Ready Growth Grant, I have just taken on the role of chairing Kids in Philanthropy, and joined the ygap board, so there may be papers I need to read or some other responsibilities to fulfil connected with those roles.  

What do you love most about your jobs?

I love that I work with my family, and the team of committed and capable people we have built around us. I also have the opportunity to help catalyse and support brilliant people in the social, business and finance sectors who dedicate their lives to bringing about positive change. 

Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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