Robert Stevens shares the CSR investment trends emerging amongst leading corporates. This article was originally published in Corporate Citizenship Briefing on February 5 2015.
For leading corporates, gone are the days of arm’s length Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programmes. Business leaders now recognise the value of integrating CSR into the core of their business and maximising the impact of every dollar or pound spent. As CSR becomes integral, there is increased pressure to demonstrate investment value and robustly report impacts.
Smart corporates are always on the look-out for ever more innovative ways to make their CSR investments deliver more. Here are three ways our partners are driving innovation, delivering positive impacts and maximising the value of CSR investment.
Innovative impact assessment to inform smart decision-making
A key focus for our partners is measuring the social, environmental and business impacts delivered by their CSR investments. Take Aviva, who partnered with ClimateCare to deliver their carbon offset programme; supporting projects designed at the outset to deliver robust emission reductions for the company and improve people’s lives.
Using the LBG framework, which the company already used to measure the impact of its wider community investment programme, we helped Aviva lead the market and measure the impact delivered through their programme, reporting that in just two years it had cut 126,000 tonnes of CO2 (which it used to help meet carbon neutrality targets) and at the same time improved the lives of 200,000 people.
By applying the LBG framework in this way, Aviva was able to compare the impacts delivered by its different CR investments side-by-side. As Zelda Bentham, Group Head of Environment and Climate Change at Aviva noted; “what was interesting was how favourably ClimateCare’s integrated Climate and Development projects compared [to other CR investments] in terms of community impact”.
Other businesses now use this same methodology to measure the social impacts of their investment in offsetting. And smart corporates are now taking such impact measurement and reporting to the next level; incorporating this into their investment decision-making to maximise value from CSR programmes.
Integrated programmes to achieve multiple CSR targets
As investment decisions become subject to increasing financial scrutiny, our business partners are opting for longer-term, integrated partnerships that can deliver measurable and sustainable impacts at scale, have legacy value and which are measured, and sometimes even paid for, on a results basis.
There is an increasing pool of evidence that achieving both environmental and social responsibility targets through a single investment delivers value for the business. Take Jaguar Land Rover, a company with ambitious responsible business targets to create opportunities for 12 million people by 2020 whilst continuing to offset their UK manufacturing emissions.
Jaguar Land Rover is taking an integrated approach to achieving its CSR goals, by supporting ClimateCare programmes which demonstrably improve lives and deliver emission reductions. Through this smart CSR investment, Jaguar Land Rover has and continues to deliver social & community impacts at scale; whether that’s improving health through access to safe water, or scaling-up renewable technologies, supporting community entrepreneurs, creating local jobs and cutting emissions. This has enabled the company to robustly report lives improved against its corporate target, whilst achieving carbon neutral manufacturing through the same investment.
In the words of Jaguar Land Rover’s CSR Director Jonathan Garrett, “Supporting sustainable development projects that transform people’s lives and also reduce carbon emissions makes clear business sense”. Going forward, companies should seek to derive maximum value from their CSR investments by selecting programmes that can deliver against multiple social and environmental goals, offering value for the business, its employees and stakeholders.
Investing in insetting
Schoolchildren using water filters provided by The Co-operative’s insetting project – photo credit Kate Holt/ClimateCare
There is an increasing case for investing in projects within your sphere of influence and in particular into what are now called ‘insetting’ projects – projects that reduce carbon within your own supply chain. In our experience, projects like these turn a cost centre – paying to deliver CSR and carbon outcomes – into a valuable investment that can bolster supply-chain resilience, help to future-proof a business, and deliver positive impacts for communities a business relies on.
Take The Co-operative Group. Working with their tea growing communities in Kenya they identified access to safe water as a key issue. The Co-operative worked with ClimateCare to develop a bespoke insetting project providing safe water for the first time to 14,000 people with this supply chain. As well as improving lives, increasing productivity and strengthening relations with communities the business relies on, this project is also delivering measurable emission reductions.
As more corporates recognise CSR as core business, we expect to see more robust impact measurement to inform decision-making, a growth in integrated programmes to achieve multiple goals and increasingly smart investments within supply chains and other spheres of business influence or interest that turn cost centres into sources of resilience.
Robert Stevens is ClimateCare’s Head of Partnerships and oversees our client relationship team from the UK office in Oxford. He also manages our bespoke services team developing tailored sustainability programmes for businesses and orchestrating public/private partnerships to increase impact.