Simon Feldman of Virgin Media spoke about focusing their impact, and having that work both ways: "We had previously worked with 27 charities but we wanted to move our focus to something which could have a bigger impact. Through 'Work With Me' we want to create real, lasting change for disabled people. This has challenged and inspired us to transform how we support our own disabled employees and customers; we've also held a roundtable discussion with a number of other businesses to share best practice of hiring and supporting disabled employees."
What's clear for Credit Suisse is that their corporate citizenship programmes align with the company's core values. Manuel Hoerl heads the Financial Inclusion Initiative, which has been tasked since 2008 with capacity building of microfinance organizations and beyond: "We've supported projects which have fostered product and services innovation (e-wallet, micro-leasing, education finance), training, and research … Over the years, we've developed a combined approach of funding and skills which has a good value proposition for our partners and strongly embeds our activities in financial inclusion in our overall organization."
It's not just about microfinance for social impact, there is also a potential extra benefit the bank offers to its partners: "Once a partner's needs outgrow our offering in the Corporate Citizenship space, we also have our dedicated impact investing experts in the business that can – assuming sufficient growth and success – potentially serve their commercial needs."
This dual approach of not only using specific corporate expertise to grow organisations as well as possibly add to pipeline is not uncommon with service companies. Accenture's Accenture In the Future program provides technical training, ongoing mentoring, and in-house job opportunities to tech talent from low-income communities. The program was founded on the understanding that investing in talent from a diverse range of backgrounds has positive outcomes for the company as well as the wider community – providing both a lasting social impact, an immediate advantage to the participants, and obvious benefits to the company's talent pool.
The growing trend of purpose-led (as opposed to brand marketing- or regulatory-led) CSR is increasingly a focus of the most forward-looking companies - and with this approach, Bain & Company found employee productivity to grow by 125 percent, while the Workforce Purpose Index shows that these businesses are 50 percent more likely to have employees develop into leaders. The diversion from small, sporadic donations to purposeful partnerships seems well justified.
Eva Halper sees this in action at Credit Suisse: "The closer a company's citizenship efforts are aligned with a company's core purpose and values, the more effective and sustainable it will be."