Show of hands: how many of you have donated to a disaster relief cause in the last year?
If you raised your hand, you’re not alone. "Heart of the Donor," a recent study by Grey Matter Research, identified disaster relief as the No. 1 cause for public giving.
But does this translate in the world of corporate philanthropy? Does corporate giving follow public trends in giving?
The answer is no.
Giving in Numbers: 2010 Edition, a report by CECP, ranks disaster relief dead last in corporate giving.
Obviously disaster relief contributions could ebb and flow as a result of current events, but it's important to note that disaster relief also ranked last in giving in 2009 and 2008. What rose to the top of the list for corporate donations? Health and social services.
Thirty five percent of all donors contributed to environmental cases, putting it in 4th place for most-common charity. However, the environment comes in second to last in the corporate world – with only 5 percent of corporate contributions going to green causes.
In addition to health and social services, causes that rate high in corporate giving include higher education and education K-12.
The lesson is that the link between public giving and corporate giving is fuzzy if not non-existent. Businesses tend to focus on charities that align with their culture and core values.
That’s not to say that business don’t care about disaster relief, but they may look for sustainable ways to invest in their own communities through education and social services.
In addition to April showers, May flowers, baseball games and spring vacation, this time of year brings with it many awards ceremonies in the communications industry. We recently wrote about Powell Tate’s PoliPulse being nominated for a Webby award, and last night, our work on the Pepsi Refresh Project was celebrated as the 2011 “PR Campaign of the Year” and “Best Social Media/Social Networking Campaign” at the Holmes Report’s SABRE Awards.
We’re extremely proud to have been a part of this collaborative effort across multiple agencies to make the Pepsi Refresh Project a success, but this award really speaks to the impact the program has had over the past year – on individuals, businesses and entire communities. Thanks to the funding Pepsi has put into generating hundreds of grants since early last year, we’ve seen theaters restored, playgrounds built for children with disabilities, and military members’ dreams fulfilled – because the public has chosen to support, and rally their own networks for, these projects.
The power of networking – both online and offline – has truly made the Refresh Project a success from the ground up. We’re honored to have taken home the award that recognizes this critical factor that’s allowed thousands of people to refresh their own communities.
Today I learned that in 2010, Americans spent on average $340 billion on clothing and shoes, and according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, virtually all of it is sourced elsewhere. The second fact probably isn’t too surprising; we are rather familiar with seeing a “Made in XYZ country” clothing tag. But, even if we are accustomed to the fact that many of our favorite products are manufactured elsewhere, we are not familiar with the way in which those products are produced.
Enter the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, a recently announced collaboration among retailers, clothing manufacturers, environmental groups and academics brought together to give every garment a sustainability score. This is an important and ambitious undertaking for the clothing and apparel industry. It is also timely given the growing conversation around sustainable sourcing and production. As CSR initiatives evolve, companies are being asked to answer beyond the “where” question and also address the “how” question.
- Where was this product made?
- How is it getting from supply chain to store front?
While this is a massive project for the coalition, they are wisely tackling it in a phased approach with three important elements:
- Collaborative knowledge-sharing: The 30 member coalition comprised of retail companies (Patagonia, Wal-Mart) environmental groups (EPA, EDF) and academics (Duke University) is putting together a comprehensive database of the environmental impact of every manufacturer, component and process in apparel production.
- Uniform measurement: Using the detailed database, the coalition will assign a score to the production of every element from dyes and fabrics to zippers, buttons, and grommets.
- Consumer focus: The end goal is to produce a label that would share a consumable version of the products sustainability score: where and how the product was made, and the environmental impact the creation of that clothing has on both the people and the planet.
I am most excited to see how the coalition will communicate the importance of the forthcoming sustainability index. Beyond producing a label, how would you propose educating and motivating consumers to pay attention to the sustainability score of a piece of clothing, and, would a negative score impact your purchasing decision?
Today marked the start of the 2011 National Conference on Corporate Community Investment. The event, hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Business Civic Leadership Center (BCLC), kicked off with the presentation of the Siemens Sustainable Community Awards.
The City of Raleigh earned recognition in the midsize community category. It was honored for its vision to be a “21st Century City of Innovation.” In his acceptance speech, the Assistant City Manager set the tone for the rest of the conference. He conceded, “We are on the right path, but we are just beginning.”
The Sustainable Community Award winners, like most communities across the country, are making greater investments in sustainability initiatives. But, there’s no clear or quick path forward. Communities can only utilize the resources at their disposal – and look to their peers for inspiration.
In an earlier session, Katherine Gajewski of the City of Philadelphia told attendees that she has incorporated best practices from New York and Chicago into her community’s sustainability initiatives. This type of sharing represents the clearest and quickest path to long-term social and economic development. It comes in many forms:
- Shared Ideas: To make its vision a reality, Raleigh established a multi-agency Economic Development Group. Philadelphia did the same. Communities must keep the lines of communication open, so that each learns about and implements best practices.
- Shared Leadership: In an earlier session, Matthew McKenna of Keep America Beautiful, Inc., said that businesses often take the lead on sustainability efforts and involve his organization as an issue expert. Shared leadership will ensure the best ideas and resources are brought to bear.
- Shared Goals: Communities are sharing ideas – and, within them, entities are sharing leadership – because they have a common goal to improve the quality of life of future generations.
I’ll share more insights from the conference as the week goes on. In the meantime, let me know how your community or organization is applying best practices to its sustainability initiatives.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet up with John Friedman, founding board member of the Sustainable Business Network (SBN) in Washington, DC. John has a long history of advising and communicating around issues of corporate social responsibility both in his role at Sodexo and as Board Chair of SBN. As practitioners in this field it’s always good to share thoughts and insights from those who influence the community. John is one of those people. A prolific writer and speaker on these topics, John took a few minutes to respond to some questions we posed about the importance of transparency in the Internet Age and the impact it has on authenticity in CSR. He’s discussed this topic quite a bit in his presentations at the “State of Green Business Forum” sponsored by Greenbiz.com and on Radio America. Here’s what he has to say…
What does it mean to be transparent? Companies might think that publishing a CSR report is enough but is it?
Historians will likely look back on the beginning of the 21st century as the time when the concept of transparency went main stream. Thanks to Wikileaks, with its notion of ‘forced’ transparency, the question about the right to privacy has come head to head with the right of people to know. By couching the discussion as one of moral imperative, Julian Assange has challenged the previously held notion that transparency is a voluntary activity.
Of course, there are many examples where transparency has forced organizations to accept responsibility for their actions; from troubling videos of the mistreatment of cows in the meat industry to Google Earth revealing piles of 55 gallon drums leaking industrial waste behind factories. Transparency due in part to internet coverage of the protestors in Tahrir square in Cairo may have helped prevent another Tiananmen Square massacre.
Certainly these examples demonstrate the idealistic power of transparency to address social, environmental, political and other issues. At the same time, the concept of ‘forcing’ transparency is very troubling. This is important to governments, businesses, not-for-profit organization and academia because often these institutions are careful to time their disclosures. The idea that an external organization may ‘out’ your efforts before you are ready to go public can cause problems as well.
Organizations must now wonder if their work to develop new products for the marketplace, new services or information for their constituents or to advance knowledge might, at any time, be revealed to the public, compromising competitive advantage, and even potentially throwing the validity of research into question (such as when people in a study become too informed about the issue that is being studied.) How then to handle the new age of transparency?
The answer is that the more transparent organizations become on a voluntary basis, the less need advocates and radicals will feel to ‘force’ the issue. Many organizations already embrace the concept – such as producing annual corporate responsibility or sustainability reports or by incorporating those commitments and results within the annual reports. Some use printed documents, and many are moving the reporting onto their websites.
What's the role of social media in transparency?
In 2011, website and print dissemination often are no longer ‘enough.’ Organizations are moving toward real time reporting, leveraging the power of social media to tell their stories and announce their promises, their plans, their programs and, ultimately, their performance.
Doing so makes sense because social media – Facebook and Twitter being prime examples – are where people come together to share ideas and express their feelings (both positive and negative) about issues, organizations, companies and even governments.
Because social media inspire and encourage debate about issues including the environment, society, equality, justice, labor relations, human rights, ethics and governance, those wishing to be part of the conversation need only to seek out and search those subjects. There they will find the voices of reason, as well as radicals. They will find those who seek to understand and build, along with those who aim to expose. And is there that the debate is happening, whether or not you choose to join it is, of course, up to the individual or organization. But knowing that the discussion is happening right now, the question one really has to ask is whether or not they are comfortable pretending that it is not happening?
Savvy organizations recognize not only the threat of ignoring what stakeholders are saying and thinking about them (at the same time often spending money on market research to determine the same thing), but the opportunity that social media offer to serve as an early warning system offering real time feedback that is invaluable for any organization whether it seeks to produce and sell products, serve a constituency, further a cause, advance knowledge or even govern a people.
Bottom line, as communications professionals, we incorporate these best practices into our work with all organizations both corporations and nonprofits, alike, not only because it promotes transparency but also because it promotes dialogue. Engaging with your audiences is another key factor in using social media because doing so may help improve your organization. Organizations who are open to transparency will often find themselves open to improvements and what could be better than creating opportunities for constant improvements? Tell us your story about the role of social media in promoting transparency at your organization. We’d love to hear from you.
Late last year, our team partnered with KRC Research to interview more than 200 top executives at Fortune 2000 companies who have responsibility for philanthropic, social responsibility or community outreach. For more than a year, we’ve been fortunate to see the powerful impact of crowdsourcing in CSR through our work with Pepsi on the Pepsi Refresh Project.
With this survey, we wanted to understand new developments in the CSR sector, in particular, the role of crowdsourcing and social media in raising awareness and driving engagement. Here’s what we learned.
Forty-four percent of executives we surveyed say they have used crowdsourcing – asking customers to provide ideas and help in decision-making. Among those executives, an overwhelming 95 percent reported that it was valuable to their organization’s CSR programming.
When asked why crowdsourcing is so valuable for CSR, executives said it:
- Surfaces new perspectives and diverse opinions (36%)
- Builds engagement and relationships with key audiences (25%)
- Invites clients and customers from nontraditional sources to contribute ideas and opinions (22%)
- Brings new energy into the process of generating ideas and content (16%)
The fact sheet and PowerPoint below summarize a number of additional findings, including perspective on crowdsourcing from executives who haven’t used it, and several findings on the role of social media (including specific channels such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) in raising awareness and driving engagement for CSR.
We’re going to be talking on our blog about the implications of these findings and any questions they may prompt. We’d welcome your questions or comments.
As our Social Impact team considered topics to explore in our second annual Social Impact survey, one question rose quickly to the top: Why are corporations motivated to invest in CSR? And what are the key success factors and lessons learned from recent CSR efforts?
I'm proud to release the findings of our survey of more than 200 corporate executives in large-sized companies with responsibility for philanthropic, social responsibility or community relations, conducted in partnership with KRC Research in October 2010.
Here’s the major takeaway: Having an impact on critical issues is the number one reason why corporations are investing in philanthropic or socially responsible activities.
- Other Motivating Factors for CSR: A second reason given for funding CSR is the opportunity to see an organization’s values in action. Interestingly, having an impact on critical issues (30%) outranked several more business-oriented motivations, such as building customer loyalty (15%), differentiating the company from competitors (6%) and engaging and retaining employees. The last finding suggests the need for companies to better understand the link between CSR and employee satisfaction, a topic we’ll explore later this month.
- Nonprofits Critical to CSR: The news for nonprofits is very positive, with 8 in 10 executives saying they consider nonprofits valuable partners. Nonprofits are seen as ideal partners because they make their CSR investment more effective, provide a critical foundation and infrastructure, contribute expertise and help engage consumers.
- Senior Leadership Drives Success: Nearly all executives reported that strong and vocal support from senior managers (94%) and well-defined objectives and outcomes (91%) are the most important ingredients in creating successful CSR programs.
What these findings highlight for our team is a shift in why CSR programs are undertaken. Corporations are looking at community needs and asking how they can narrow and better focus their resources and expertise to foster genuine change on specific critical issues. Given the urgent need for action in the U.S. on vital issues such as education, health and wellness, economic development and environmental sustainability, that’s encouraging news.
We’ve highlighted key findings and our perspective on the strategic implications they present for corporations and nonprofits in a two-page PDF that you can download. You can also view a detailed PowerPoint. Let us know what findings you find interesting and if they prompt questions you’d like us to explore on these pages.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
- May | 13
- Apr | 13
- Mar | 13
- Feb | 13
- Dec | 12
- Nov | 12
- Oct | 12
- Sep | 12
- Aug | 12
- Jul | 12
- Jun | 12
- May | 12
- Apr | 12
- Mar | 12
- Feb | 12
- Jan | 12
- Dec | 11
- Nov | 11
- Oct | 11
- Sep | 11
- Aug | 11
- Jul | 11
- Jun | 11
- May | 11
- Apr | 11
- Mar | 11
- Feb | 11
- Jan | 11
- Dec | 10
- Nov | 10
- Oct | 10
- Sep | 10
- Aug | 10
- Jul | 10
- Jun | 10
- May | 10
- Apr | 10