SPECIAL REPORT: The expectation that companies act in a more philanthropic manner has given rise to Purposed, a startup solution to simplify corporate and employee giving.
Tom Ferrier sees a bright future for ‘for-purpose’ organisations, also known as social enterprises, predicting their business model will ensure they thrive in a future marketplace dominated by socially aware millennials.
The former IT director left the logistics services company Brambles late last year to develop Purposed, a platform solution that allows companies to undertake easier and more effective corporate giving, while encouraging employees to contribute.
“About 90 per cent of consumers these days are likely to switch brands to one that has a more ethical or social cause behind it, while 44 per cent of millennials would leave their current employer in the next two years for more meaningful jobs,” Mr Ferrier told Business News.
Currently in the process of developing a digital platform that will offer customised solutions to suit companies’ corporate giving objectives, Purposed held a think tank and ‘shark tank’ early this year that brought together 74 Australian corporates, charities, and government bodies.
It was found that while many corporates and charities wanted to increase collaboration, managing programs was immensely time consuming, it was difficult to attract employee participation, and many organisations weren’t measuring the outcomes of their investments.
With a panel that included Minderoo Foundation chief executive Nicola Forrest, lawyer and philanthropist Mike Gonski, and Philanthropy Australia chief executive Sarah Davies, the corporates and charities were challenged with the question, ‘How do we inspire more and better corporate giving at scale?’
The winning team, with members from accounting firm EY and Starlight Children’s Foundation, presented a gamified solution designed to encourage corporate giving by exchanging time and money provided to a charity for options such as time off work and career development opportunities.
Mr Ferrier said a wide array of ideas came out of the event and he’d be looking to cherry pick several to embed in the Purposed solution.
“Every organisation is going to be different, so what we’re looking to do with our foundation customers and our target market of large corporates with more than 5,000 employees is to sit down and create something different that isn’t about giving, that isn’t about volunteering, but it’s about generating greater social impact,” he said.
As a panellist at the Purposed events, Mrs Forrest said it was widely accepted that giving didn’t just benefit the recipient but also the company in attracting and retaining staff, appealing to customers and working with governments.
“I believe everyone has a responsibility to give … corporates have such central, connected roles in communities so, just like individuals, have a responsibility to use that position to give back,” she said.
“On top of this it’s simply good business.”
However, while Deloitte social sustainability specialist Leeora Black said philanthropy could comprise one aspect of a company’s social licence to operate, she did not necessarily believe corporates were obliged to be philanthropic.
“Philanthropy is always going to be contingent on how much profit you’re making whereas good business conduct is contingent on daily decision making,” Dr Black told Business News.
She said a social licence was based on the level of acceptance a group of stakeholders gave to a company, and philanthropy alone would not be enough.
“There are many companies that think they can secure a social licence by giving community donations, but it’s not something that will grow according to how many dollars you invest in communities; it will grow in proportion to how well communities and stakeholders regard you for the full range of your activities,” Dr Black said.
“Strategic philanthropy would help more than what I call confetti philanthropy, where you give money to just any cause that takes your fancy.
“Strategic philanthropy is more likely to help contribute to your reputation as being a socially responsible company.
“Unfortunately there are too many philanthropists still who give money without necessarily thinking about how they’re going to measure the effect of that.”
She said Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton demonstrated strategic philanthropy by aligning their giving with the needs of the communities in which they operate, and then measuring and reporting the outcomes of their investments.
Mr Ferrier said when customising its solutions, Purposed would be partnering with research bodies to select several key outcome metrics that would capture impact achieved over time.