Article_four_photo.pngWhy impact can no longer be the buzz word for corporates

Corporates are investing millions every year on causes and into communities around the world – but what impact are they really having?

New research published by Corporate Citizenship in the United Kingdom (UK) has revealed a surprising and sizable gap between corporate aspirations and reality when it comes to corporate community investment (CCI).

CCI has grown rapidly in recent years and we see companies building a more strategic approach to such investments by setting up employee volunteering schemes, workplace giving programs and building partnerships to support the communities in which they operate. Today, investing is an integral part of being a good corporate citizen. However alarmingly most companies don’t measure or know the impact of their contributions.

One of the hottest topics in CCI today is debate around ‘impact’ in the community, and phrases such as ‘transforming communities’ and ‘improving lives’. The reality is that most companies are confused about these key terms, fail to accurately measure them and don’t live up to the hype of their commitment to investing in the community.

The new report by Corporate Citizenship (UK) ‘Hard Outcomes or Hollow Promises: Realising the True Impact of Corporate Community Investment’ is based on the insights from more than 130 sustainability and corporate responsibility practitioners around the world.

The study reveals that:

  • Three quarters of companies aspire to achieve long-term impact with their corporate community investment
  • Less than a quarter currently feel that their organisation is delivering on the promise
  • In Europe, just over half of practitioners are measuring impact, and in North America this drops to a third
  • Just over half of respondents said they measure results of their CCI on inputs and outputs, not impact
  • Only a quarter of companies who make a contribution of less than $1 million are measuring impact
  • One in four are measuring their long-term impacts on the community and benefits to the business.

The report describes the ‘impact aspiration’ gap between what businesses seek and what they are able to deliver. The gap is caused over how and what to measure. This includes a lack of clarity over what to measure; a lack of a clear approach to measurement; and a perceived lack of resources to effectively measure impact.

Globally the impact of CCI is being measured by only one per cent of businesses making contributions. This would not happen in any other part of an organisation. Can you imagine if a company ran a recruitment campaign and didn’t know how many people responded, were recruited or were retained by the company? Or if it launched a major advertising campaign and didn’t track the sales? Businesses don’t undertake major initiatives without considering their return on investment, except when it comes to corporate community investment.

The report sets out an innovative I.M.P.A.C.T approach to ensure corporations close the impact aspiration gap by overcoming challenges and barriers to measurement:

  • Intent is about setting clear objectives
  • Map means understanding what’s currently going on
  • Plan requires setting the right measurement framework
  • Act involves carrying out calculations
  • Consider means analysing and interpreting the findings intelligently
  • Tell is getting your messages to the audiences that matter.

It’s reassuring to know there is a genuine commitment by corporate Australia to invest in our communities. It would be even better to know that it is having its intended impact.  A full copy of the report can be found here