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Working in harmony helps others.

Millions of pounds is donated each year by large corporates through independent charity foundations.

The challenge is to ensure that the corporate foundations can confidently align their activities with their company's corporate responsibility (CR) strategy in a way that benefits the wider community but does not compromise their independent charitable status.

In research undertaken on behalf of the not-for-profit organisation, Charities Aid Foundation, CAF, there are often difficult decisions that need to be taken to ensure both the foundation and the corporate teams work in harmony. CAF works with thousands of charities, individuals and businesses to show how effective giving can make the difference.

The report, Changing Nature of Corporate Responsibility - What Role for Corporate Foundations shows how alignment may result in a decision to fully integrate the foundation's activities into the various elements of CR. This might include engagement with wider stakeholders such as customers, suppliers and employees, or position the foundation as a conduit for best practice grant making. The research confirms that it is the corporate foundation's confidence in fulfilling its statutory obligations and its clarity of purpose that creates this flexibility and opportunity for alignment.

The research, undertaken by The SMART Company, shows that some corporates are thriving in the modern Corporate Responsibility (CR) landscape as they leverage resources across the Foundation and the company to achieve greater social impact and business benefit. The unique structure of the corporate foundation and its proximity to the community is being maximised to deliver innovative community investment initiatives.

Examples include companies such as Waitrose increasingly use its namesake foundations to address both social issues and their corporate responsibility obligations.

The Waitrose Foundation helps to improve the welfare of farm workers in South Africa who produce fruit sold in Waitrose stores.

Nick Monger-Godfrey, Head of CSR for Waitrose, said: "By combining the efforts of the Waitrose Foundation with our main corporate responsibility programme we are able to provide more investment for social welfare programmes to improve the lives of farm workers and their families."

"We believe the Foundation is a model for the future of socially responsible trading. It also links closely with the Government strategy for Black Economic Empowerment.

Our customers have embraced the principles of the Foundation with enthusiasm and by passing some of our profits back through the supply chain, we not only get the best quality products for them, but we also enable South African farm workers to invest in their own communities."

Russell Prior, Executive Director, Company Services, CAF explained: "Our research demonstrates that foundations continue to bring value to corporate giving programmes in many different ways.

"As corporate responsibility and community investment become more integrated into general business practice, it is particularly interesting to note how some companies are using the foundation model, and making the most of the benefits that come with that model, to manage a core part of their strategic CR programme."

CAF believes that a key challenge for foundations is to improve the way they communicate their purpose, objectives and activity both to their parent company and other key stakeholders outside of their organisation.

CAF also recommends that companies and their foundations improve their levels of knowledge sharing. Corporate foundations, as charities, are obliged to report to their regulator, but have been relatively insulated from the rigorous assessment and reporting of company's CR activities. Some foundations could benefit from guidance from their parent companies in order to develop better reporting practices. Some companies could also improve the way they engage with the communities by listening to the experiences of their foundations that typically remain closer to the communities they help.

To read the report in full visit the website at www.cafonline.org/corporatefoundations

"We believe the Foundation is a model for the future of socially responsible trading
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 28, 2007
Words:628
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