Thriving Communities – equipping your business for growing impact together  

SBC’s Thriving Voices online event series continued last week with our kaputī kōrero focusing on community impact. 

Our recently launched report ‘Thriving People – Strengthening the ‘S’ in ESG’ showed business has an exciting role to progress social equity through action in three areas of focus, including community investment and impact (read my key takeaways here). So it was inspiring to be joined in conversation by Ākina’s Kristin Fanselow, community leader Witeri Williams (Ruapōtaka Marae) and Fonterra’s Simon Tucker and Shaheen Junge to shed some light on what leadership looks like, how good practice is evolving to deliver long-term social sustainability and impact.  

Kristin set the scene, outlining three principles of good practice businesses can embrace in developing a social impact strategy – check out her introduction below.

It was awe inspiring to then hear Witeri bring those principles to life when he shared how Ruapōtaka Marae mobilised 1,500 volunteer hours and critical infrastructure to provide food and essential items to more than 4,000 individuals – 1546 of those were dependents between August and December of the Covid lockdown, providing 25 days of continuous food distribution across the local communities of Glenn Innes and Point England. This emergency response provided the blueprint for establishing Pōtaka – a Maori-led social supermarket which continues to put kai on the table of those who need it most. A key message I heard was the opportunity business has to ‘get in behind’ (or get out of the way!) of existing community-led initiatives to do good together. 

Check out Witeri’s inspiring mahi below.

That ethos also lies at the heart of Fonterra’s approach to community investment and impact. It was great to hear Simon and Shaheen speak to how Fonterra’s approach and impact has evolved by going back to first principles: 

  • the company’s ‘why’ 
  • where it can have most impact 
  • how it will know it is being impactful    

From there, Fonterra has focused on three action areas that align to that purpose, its business model, resources and its expertise. You can hear more about how Fonterra is ‘Doing Good together’ below.

Here are my three takeaways, which were common themes shared by all four presenters: 

  1. Prioritise relationships and community-led approaches. Good practice places a strong emphasis on building meaningful relationships with local communities, such as involving them in both co-designing and co-implementing initiatives to understand and then addressing their unique needs and aspirations. 
    • Shift required: We need to transition from a top-down approach to a more collaborative, community-led model. Ensure your efforts are guided by the insights of your community, including employees and customers, and take sufficient time to build trust and (subsequently) shared responsibility. 
  2. Identify and prioritise impact areas aligned with your purpose, business model, expertise, and resources. Invest in initiatives that not only benefit the community but also enhance your long-term sustainability – in others words, shared value creation. Fonterra’s Doing Good together is a great example of this approach. 
    • Shift required: Business needs to move away from ad-hoc social responsibility efforts towards a strategic approach that integrates impact areas into core business strategy, ensuring social sustainability initiatives are not only socially beneficial but also financially sustainable. 
  3. Develop strategies that prioritise long-term outcomes, delivered through tailored initiatives to meet the specific needs and aspirations of the communities in which you operate, with clear metrics to track progress and impact. 
    • Shift required: Business must move away from short-term, one-size-fits-all solutions by investing in research, adaptability, and robust impact measurement frameworks. This will enable the creation of sustainable, customised programmes that not only benefit the community over time but demonstrate and continuously evaluate their effectiveness. 

Next steps: get involved 

Our ‘Strengthening the ‘S’ in ESG’ report has revealed an exciting role for business in progressing social equity through community investment, including the opportunity for business to take a more relational-based approach individually (as outlined above) and for businesses with the same communities to take aligned action. 

I will be bringing together a small group of interested members to workshop how we can build action and momentum on community investment and impact. Please get in touch with me ([email protected]) if you would like to get involved, would like to know more or if you have an awesome initiative you would like to share with other SBC members.

14 Nov, 2023

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