KPMG's Shaun Murphy & Karina Howley discuss how to enhance the impact of corporate citizenship in our communities.
A subtle but significant shift is taking place in the approach firms are taking to their corporate citizenship work, according to KPMG head of Corporate Citizenship and Diversity, Karina Howley. No longer is the effort quantified in terms of money collected and donated or hours volunteered, regardless of how impressive both numbers may be. It's the actual impact that counts.
This has led to firms like KPMG rethinking their strategies and approaches and innovating to enhance their impact. "Sometimes we think of innovation in terms of technology", says Howley. "But it actually covers all aspects of business. We are using it to make our corporate citizenship work more focused and meaningful."
In KPMG's case this has involved aligning that work with the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 goals, which have been agreed by 193 countries around the world, set out to tackle a whole range of issues, from gender inequality to climate change. The unifying thread is the commitment to ending poverty.
"The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals are a really good benchmark against which business can measure its corporate citizenship objectives and progress and we'd highly recommend using them as a foundation for any worthwhile citizenship strategy", says KPMG managing partner Shaun Murphy.
"We look at our corporate citizenship work and see how we can play a role in attaining these goals", Howley adds. "For example, we want to promote economic growth in the communities where we operate. We also work very hard in the educational area. Our emphasis on lifelong learning is one of the things that has changed a lot in recent years."
The change is in relation to how the support is offered. In the past, many companies might have simply donated funds to an educational initiative or supported a particular project in a short-term way. KPMG offers skills based volunteering where the expertise of its staff is made available to the community.
"We take in 300 of Ireland's brightest and best graduates every year and we are looking at ways to tap into that resource to see how it can be used to support lifelong learning and other areas", says Howley.
"Unlocking the talent of your own people is one of the best things about skills based volunteering", says Murphy. "It's remarkable what this approach can unearth in any business large or small. There are real benefits to those who need it most as well as a real opportunity for skills to be channelled where they can have the greatest benefit."
One example of this is the promotion of STEM careers among women. "One of our partners here at KPMG, Caroline O'Driscoll, is at the forefront of this at the moment", Howley points out. "She is out there encouraging young females to keep going at these careers and to understand that there are jobs with a purpose in the area. We are also very active in promoting female entrepreneurship, There is a massive drive around that at the moment."
While the physical number of hours volunteered is no longer seen as a key measure of corporate citizenship work KPMG's contribution is worthy of note with 1,100 volunteers delivering 10,000 hours to community projects last year alone.
"It is the impact of these hours and the difference they make that really counts", Howley explains. "That is the challenge we have set for ourselves - to ensure that the hours we contribute make a real difference to the communities and people concerned."
In the education space, current initiatives include the Time to Read programme with City Quay National School and a mentor programme with Westland Row secondary school. Time to Read sees KPMG volunteers working one to one with primary schoolchildren on their reading skills.
"The Westland Row project is a two-year mentoring programme and that's a big commitment from the perspective of the volunteers", Howley notes. "The students get a huge amount of value from it but our staff get value as well. They are helping young people grow and evolve and realise their potential and this is rewarding in itself."
Another highly innovative programme supported by KPMG is Going for Growth, an award-winning initiative that encourages female entrepreneurs and supports them in achieving their business goals. Going for Growth is focused on female business owner-managers who have been running their companies for two years or more. Through peer support, the programme seeks to overcome the challenges experienced by many female owner managers.
The results have been impressive. In the most recent cycle, the combined revenue of participants increased by €7.8 million (+28%); 70 new full time jobs were created by 32 participants (+17%) and there were nine first-time exporters over the course of the programme (+43%).
Another initiative aimed at encouraging young women in their careers is KPMG Ignite. The first programme of its kind in Ireland, it comprised the delivery of four workshops at Jesus and Mary Secondary school in Goatstown, Dublin. The workshops were held for female transition year students and centred on female empowerment and building confidence. Participants heard from a number of successful female role models and KPMG volunteers and incorporated valuable tools and tips to improve confidence and boost the aspirations of the students taking part. The programme culminated in a session where each group presented their learnings and benefits gained from the programme.
"We are constantly innovating in our corporate citizenship efforts", Howley adds. "We like to do things that haven't been done before and see if they can add value. That's what it's all about. We are using the knowledge, experience and skills of our people here in KPMG to make an impact and make a real difference to the people and communities we support."
This article was originally published in the Irish Times on 15 December 2016 and is reproduced here with their kind permission.