How business skills can help transform communities

By

US Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

6 minute read 26 Apr 2018
Related topics Purpose Workforce

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Companies can make a more meaningful impact on society by leveraging the expertise and experience that has made them a success.

Historically, the business world’s approach to helping communities tackle pressing social issues has tended to be through financial donations or one-day company-wide volunteering efforts. The increased presence of corporate social responsibility (CSR) embedded into the corporate ethos reflects the need to make a positive societal and environmental impact. But how much a company’s CSR strategy actually translates into lasting real-world benefits for communities can vary considerably.

The recent rise in the number of not-for-profits and social enterprises around the world is a reflection of the growing demand to have businesses that address the long-term needs of our planet. But as these organizations seek to tackle an array of chronic social problems, many often lack the necessary resources, skillsets and expertise to fully implement their plans.

This is where the traditional business world has a chance to make a real impact. Companies can utilize the corporate expertise that have made them successful to support these organizations. Rather than provide a one-off donation, businesses can use their core skills to help make a more meaningful, lasting change and create more inclusive growth.

Woman in a food factory uses tablet
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Chapter 1

Which helps a charity make a bigger impact: corporate money or corporate skills?

Charities and social enterprises face the same challenges as any other business

Charities, not-for-profit groups and social enterprises like most organizations need talent to devise effective strategy, build business process and planning, and manage resource. They also need leaders to interact with and coordinate multiple stakeholders with differing objectives, timeframes and resources. A gap in these skills can limit an organizations’ ability to deliver on their objectives.

Most successful businesses have embedded these skills throughout. The corporate world has long excelled in driving through ideas and strategies that rely on efficiently managing numerous processes and players.

Be it devising innovative funding models for building new schools in the Philippines or supporting social entrepreneurs in east Africa with simple business analytics to help improve access to clean water more sustainably, business expertise can bring huge benefits to community needs by improving efficiencies and skills.

Two women volunteer at a food bank
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Chapter 2

Coming together to beat hunger

Helping the ConAgra Foundation reduce hunger in Omaha, USA

Reflecting its purpose of building a better working world, EY worked with the charitable arm of US food group ConAgra to help Omaha food banks work better and reduce child hunger in the community.

Despite being located in the heart of America’s farm belt, in 2014 one in five children in Omaha, Nebraska, were classified as “food insecure,” meaning that their homes do not have consistent access to food throughout the year. While there are many organizations working hard to address the problem, they are spread throughout the state and have historically lacked a coordinated approach.

Having seen the complexity and intractability of the issue, the ConAgra Foundation and EY believed there was a better way — a more businesslike way — to help reduce food insecurity.

"At the end of the day, all the challenges that exist in a business also exist in a not-for-profit — the same people issues, the same inefficiencies, the same metrics that are required to succeed," says Sharad Malhautra, Senior Manager, EY and Advisory Manager on the ConAgra project. "So if we apply all the approaches taken to help better run a business in a community setting, it can really produce a true impact and a measurable success."

If we apply all the approaches taken to help better run a business in a community setting, it can produce true impact and measurable success.
Sharad Malhautra
Senior Manager, EY and Advisory Manager

How can business bring Omaha’s food banks together to better fight child hunger?

Using the principles of supply chain and project management, EY developed a playbook and workflow toolkit that defined a collaborative process to bring food-focused community groups from across the state together.

The playbook outlined the roles and responsibilities of each of the stakeholders, as well as methods for measuring and defining success. This helped increase the efficiency, accountability and collaboration of the multiple community organizations in the plan.

By the end of year one, the program achieved its goal of a 10% reduction in food insufficiency and related coping behaviors. There was a 15% increase in the number of children eating breakfast in school, while one local food bank far exceeded its goal of serving 996,000 meals, delivering more than 1.4 million meals.

The program showed that leveraging project management methodologies commonly used in the business world can create a meaningful and lasting social impact.

Smiling female volunteer
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Chapter 3

How corporate community involvement benefits businesses

Empowerment, Retention and Purpose

Providing business expertise to help boost the impact of social enterprises or charities can create mutual benefits.

By supporting projects that improve local communities’ access to food, health care or education, companies can help put people on the path to achieving their potential, which results in a stronger economy, both locally and globally.

But there is also a more direct result to the participating businesses — the positive impact that working with charities has on a business’s employees.

Empowering employees

Participating in projects like EY’s work with ConAgra can be a significant motivating factor for employees, knowing that they have directly helped society. Workers get to see how the disciplines they learned in the marketplace can have a hugely positive impact in a different context to their everyday work environment.

"What really clicked for me was that you can take your skill sets that make you successful every day and use that to make even more community impact elsewhere," says Malhautra.

You can take your skill sets that make you successful every day and use that to make even more community impact elsewhere.
Sharad Malhautra
Senior Manager, EY and Advisory Manager on the ConAgra project

Recruiting millennials

The ability to work for an organization that makes a tangible social impact is a particular pull for the millennial generation. More than half of millennials employed in the US said a company’s charitable work influenced them to accept a job offer, while 94% like using their skills to benefit a cause. And increasingly, employees across all generations want to work for companies that have values they admire. In EY’s work with ConAgra, this was a real motivating factor for the team.

"We had a very young team on this, and they placed a very high premium on being able to have an impact with this project with the local food banks," says Tad Carmody, ‎Principal at EY and Advisory Manager on the ConAgra project. "When we look at our staffing profile, a defining feature of millennials is that they value social impact in their work. And this delivered on that for the team in a noticeable way."

A defining feature of millennials is that they value social impact in their work. And this delivered on that for the team in a noticeable way.
Tad Carmody
Principal at EY and Advisory Manager on the ConAgra project.

Making a meaningful impact

A raft of new charities, social enterprises and not-for-profits are working hard to drive transformative change through local communities. But there are many great projects that struggle to have the impact or scale they hope for because they lack the right skill set and experience. The business world can provide those skills and serve as a catalyst to bring about actionable, sustainable change.

And they can also see their employees grow as a result. And a more engaged workforce, united around a shared sense of purpose, can help drive innovation and growth.

To find out more about the work EY did with Conagra, please contact Sharad Malhautra, Senior Manager, Performance Improvement.

Summary

Business input into charities can have mutual benefits. For the charity, greater efficiency. For the business, an enhanced sense of purpose and more engaged employees.

About this article

By

US Americas

Multidisciplinary professional services organization

Related topics Purpose Workforce