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CSR on the up and up, but what does it mean for brands?

More than three-quarters of New Zealand businesses take part in corporate giving but less than half keep track of their community initiatives.

More than three-quarters of New Zealand businesses take part in corporate giving but less than half keep track of their community initiatives.

Research, commissioned by the London Benchmarking Group (LBG) and BNZ, showed the most popular sectors for corporate investment are in education and with young people, followed by health, the environment and then aid/emergency relief.

Survey respondents were asked to detail the ways in which their organisation contributed to the community with cash donations and sponsorships making up almost half of the total, followed by employee time (volunteering) and ‘in kind’ support (goods or services gifted).

While CSR initiatives can affect brand perception  – and more than a third of survey responses cited improved brand perception as the greatest benefit of community involvement to their organisation – 60 percent of businesses weren't assessing corporate giving to see if the results stacked up.

LBG New Zealand director Simon Robinson said measurement added meaning to the work and enabled organisations to be sure community investment programmes not only served a strategic purpose but also had a genuine impact.

"Businesses measure the return on advertising, promotional and sponsorship investments, so why not this?"

David Wilson of AUT University’s Institute of Public Policy said measuring the impact of these types of activity is notoriously difficult, but shouldn't be ignored.

"The ideal would be to have robust and uniform measures that can be used by corporate and community organisations alike. That way a better alignment of values and resources can be achieved and a more realistic assessment of impacts can be represented. This may go some way to reducing cynicism about CSR and ensuring corporate contributions are meaningful and their activities are helpful,” he said.

The ‘Business and the Community’ survey also found:

81 percent of those surveyed said businesses have a responsibility to practise CSR.

60 percent believe that an established methodology for measuring community investment would add value

70 percent think a company’s CSR programmes make it a more desirable employer

80 percent of organisations do not have a role dedicated to CSR

66 percent of organisations contributed to the Christchurch earthquake relief effort