Evolution of Community Involvement

BITCI News - Members News - Uncategorized - May 30, 2013

On May 23rd, Business in the Community launched our latest Business Impact Map. The map is an online tool which showcases the community activities of 46 of our member companies.  Between them these companies contributed over €21million in cash, goods and services and over 140,000 volunteer hours to charities and community groups right across Ireland.

Three years since we first began mapping corporate community data, it is timely that we reflect on the information we have gathered, consider the advances that have taken place and contemplate the relevance of communicating on community involvement for companies.

Changes in global economic conditions as well as developing aspirations of society are re-shaping how business transacts.  As a result an increasing number of companies are embedding responsible business practices at every level of the organisation.  But is community involvement keeping pace?  How has corporate community engagement been evolving over the last number of years?  From working directly with companies I can see clear shifts in this engagement.  Companies are becoming far more strategic in their interactions.

Some of the trends we are observing at Business in the Community include:

  • A move away from one off engagements with charities
  • A move towards longer term relationships with charity partners –  developing structured community initiatives that tap into their core expertise or that address specific business objectives
  • A move towards more strategic volunteering,
  • A clear rise in professional skills volunteering as well as a growing impetus to use core expertise and resources to support the upskilling of the community& voluntary sector.


What Next?

The changes we are observing are very welcome, there is a clear shift by companies to actively consider community involvement in order to meet business objectives while at the same time addressing identified social need.  The trends really demonstrate that companies and communities are working together for shared value.  As companies recognise the need for coherent stakeholder engagement integrated community involvement programmes can be a very strong component in this.

However, I would suggest there is still plenty of scope to develop.  Many businesses have yet to start evaluating the impacts of their community involvement programmes.  Choosing not to measure social impacts will ensure that community investment programmes remain on the periphery and outside core business activities.  Running the programme will be considered a cost to business and showing a return on resources invested will be impossible.

For companies that have community progammes in place, consider for just a moment –

  • What would happen if you simply cancelled your community involvement programmes?
  • Which of your stakeholders would be the first to notice?
  • What would they say?
  • What gaps would be left?

If you can answer these questions easily you’re either already consciously thinking about your impacts, unless of course your answer is nothing would happen in which case you might want to re-consider your entire programme!

If you can’t answer them straight off then I’d ask you to consider the questions over the coming weeks then come and talk to Business in the Community about how we can support you to put in place a measurement framework.

The social impact of Business goes far beyond the creation of jobs and provision of goods and services.  By managing and measuring community involvement in the same way as any other  investment,  companies can more effectively communicate their  true social impact.

Linda O’Sullivan
Senior CR Consultant losullivan@bitc.ie

If you would like to read more about the relevance of Community initiatives to CSR please click here.

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Pictured above from left: Brian Longstreet Managing Direct MSD, Fr. Peter McVerry and Tina Roche, CEO Business in the Community Ireland.