Business–Community Partnerships Now a Core Part of Business Strategy

Australia’s largest companies are increasing and deepening their involvement in the community as corporate community investment (CCI) is becoming a core part of business activity and strategy, according to a landmark report released today.

The report, by the Australian Centre for Corporate Public Affairs (ACCPA) in conjunction with the Business Council of Australia, was commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership.

The Corporate Community Investment in Australia report demonstrates that while individual businesses are at many different stages in the development of CCI activities, companies on the whole are pursuing a more strategic, business-focused approach to community engagement than ever before.

“Corporate community investment is increasingly integral to the operation of businesses, but what is increasingly clear is that this activity should also be based on clear business objectives,” BCA Chief Executive, Ms Katie Lahey, said.

“While the report shows this is increasingly the case, it also highlights that more can be done by business to gain an understanding and acceptance of this trend within the community,” Ms Lahey said.

The report has found:

  • Most companies now see CCI as an ‘integral component to strategy and the corporate business model’, with a quarter of firms now requiring a business case with which to focus their investment and engagement in the community.
  • Volunteering is now a major driver of CCI activity as companies seek to directly involve their employees – who are increasingly focused on the reputation and values of companies –  in their CCI strategies and programs.
  • More boards and CEOs are now involved in setting overall strategic directions for their companies’ CCI activities.
  • Companies are becoming more discerning in their CCI engagement, focusing on more rigorous identification and selection of potential community partners, NGOs and activities.
  • Partnerships with community groups and NGOs are being established with clear, contractual agreements that specify mutual objectives and ensure clarity in roles and responsibilities.
  • Almost half of all companies now set aside a specific budget for CCI, although many companies still report difficulties around measurement of CCI outcomes.

The 2007 report follows a similar landmark study released by ACCPA and the BCA in 2000 which found more traditional forms of business–community engagement, such as corporate philanthropy and ad hoc grant making, were being superseded by more strategic approaches.

The 2007 report deliberately describes business engagement in the community as ‘corporate community investment’ to reflect the increasing business focus and strategy now being developed around CCI.

The report concludes that the move toward a greater business and strategic focus on CCI among companies will continue, as firms continue to expand their CCI management resources and increasingly embed CCI into their corporate strategies. 

At the same time, the report calls for greater formal recognition of CCI, particularly in business schools and management education, to reflect its increasing status and importance as a core business activity.

Corporate Community Investment in Australia