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Charity partnerships and the triple bottom line: A blueprint for business growth


In today's business landscape, companies are increasingly recognising the importance of contributing positively to society while ensuring financial success. Volunteering with charities is a powerful way to achieve this balance, supporting the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), engaging employees, and ultimately fostering company growth. Adopting a profit, people and planet approach can provide an enviable blueprint for business growth aligning the principles of TBL with a real focus on integrating sustainable practices that will super charge organisational success.

Understanding the Triple Bottom Line and how it relates to ESG.

ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) and the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) are both frameworks used to assess a company's impact on sustainability and social responsibility, but they do have some key differences:

ESG is a set of standards that investors and organisations use to evaluate a company's performance in three main areas: environmental, social, and governance.

TBL is a broader framework that evaluates a company's performance in three bottom lines: people (social), planet (environmental), and profit (economic).

ESG is a more focused set of standards, often used for investment analysis and corporate governance, while the Triple Bottom Line takes a broader perspective around operations and measurement of the success of economic, social, and environmental factors. The aim, to assess a company's overall sustainability and impact.

Axiologik volunteer’s with Fareshare, Yorkshire, which has just celebrated 25 years of supporting local groups through the giving of surplus food. The charity is part of the UK’s national network of charitable food redistributors, made up of 18 independent organisations.

Together they take good quality surplus food from right across the food industry and share it with nearly 8,500 frontline charities and community groups. They rely on volunteers to pick pack and deliver this food for them and so far, this year we have volunteered over 300 hours of our time to support them.

But, if you are a business evaluating why you should partner with a charity like Fareshare, as part of your ESG initiatives, here are my top three benefits:

Talent attraction, retention and employee engagement

The right people are the lifeblood of any organisation but the war for talent is real, especially for increasingly sought after skills where employers are typically fishing in the same pool. Being different will make you stand out in the race for talent. A robust alignment to social value will pay dividends when it comes to recruitment drives.

Randstad’s 2023 Work monitor research report surveying more than 35,000 working adults across 34 countries found 77% of respondents stating an employer's values and purpose are important. If this isn’t a compelling enough statistic on its own, nearly half (44%) were unwilling to accept a role with an organisation that wasn’t proactively trying to improve its social equity practices.

Volunteering is a proven way to team build and foster collaboration. With the workplace operating more hybrid ways of working, it is more important than ever to create a positive work environment and culture.

Randstad’s research also found more than half of respondents (54%) would quit a job if they felt they didn’t belong. Uniting behind a purpose that delivers back into society helps motivate, focus and create happy team members. In fact, there is a reaction known as giver’s glow, proven by researchers at Stony Brook university which found when we are generous, our brains release several chemicals that give us a sense of joy and peace. With wellbeing and mental health in sharp focus especially after the Pandemic impact fostering an inclusive happy culture will pay dividends in the long term.

Volunteering outside of your usual day job activities also builds new skills which foster personal development, another key element of employee experience and a consistent ask in employee surveys. Social Chorus found that 71% of managers feel that employee engagement is one of the most important factors in overall company success.

And those managers are correct, attraction, retention and engagement do positively impact a company's bottom line. A Forbes article in 2019 cited highly engaged teams delivering 21% greater company profitability.

Growth and performance

As highlighted above social responsibility is becoming an increasingly critical factor in determining a company's success and this makes it a key focus of the C-Suite. Partnering with a charity can impact growth positively. In a competitive business landscape make no mistake that aspirational brands are on the rise. A Globescan & BBMG survey found that 40% of consumers seek purposeful brands and trust in brands to act in the best interests of society.

This type of market differentiation fuels competitive advantage and aligns with many organisations desire to achieve lifetime customer value, increase revenue and brand loyalty. It is a commonly known fact that the cost of acquisition for a new customer is far higher than retaining an existing one. Companies that actively participate in social initiatives tend to stand out among competitors, attracting socially conscious customers and partners.

Focusing on people and planet can drive profit and growth because companies that incorporate socially responsible practices into their core operations are better equipped to adapt to changing consumer preferences and regulatory requirements, ensuring long-term sustainability, operational agility and growth.

The numbers speak for themselves. Global management consultancy, Mckinsey analysed a comprehensive set of performance metrics from 10,000 of the largest global companies. Looking at data spanning from 2016 to 2022, with a particular focus on the last five years, to recognise the huge amount of upheaval in the business world in this period.

Their research showed that, whilst weak processes but strong ESG principles won’t compensate for each other, organisations that excelled on sustainability, social value, profitability and growth were delivering 2 percentage points greater on annual excess total shareholder return (TSR) than those delivering purely on financial metrics.

Sustainability matters

Being ethical and caring about your supply chain and the environment isn’t just a business or brand “nice to have”, it is critical for the future of humanity.

There is a growing sense of urgency for business leaders to protect the environment and promote sustainable practices, outside and ahead of legislative and government measures. This is backed up by consumers desire to purchase more ethically and support the circular economy as they become more aware of environmental factors that impact them personally.

Deloitte’s sustainable consumer report 2023 highlighted that a third (34%) of consumers stated that their trust in brands would be improved if they were recognised as an ethical/sustainable provider by an independent third party.

A similar proportion (32%) claimed that their trust in brands would be improved if they could demonstrate they had a transparent, accountable, and socially and environmentally responsible supply chain.

In the case of food waste, it is recognised as a significant contributor to environmental degradation. A charity like Fareshare redirects surplus food to those who need it most in society. The impact of this is twofold. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions and minimises the environmental footprint of food that would otherwise be destined for landfill, aligning their cause perfectly with a business committed to supporting sustainable practices.

Their work and organisations like them support communities in the areas that your business may operate in promoting positive brand awareness whilst seeking to close the social inequality gap, in a time where food inflation is at a historic high. In its most basic form, charity partnerships like this ensure children and vulnerable people don’t go hungry, whilst protecting the environment.

Is there a better return on investment then that?

Still need convincing?

Charity partnerships offer organisations the ultimate blueprint for business growth. Volunteering time and resource is a practical way for companies to support their ESG and Triple Bottom Line activities.

Building social value intrinsically into operations ensures process and governance supports profit through social and environmental responsibility, fostering a positive work environment, and strengthening a company's position in the market. All of which are critical factors for future success. The brands that get this right, demonstrating they genuinely add value to society can enjoy competitive advantage and reap the rewards of putting people and planet first.

Rachel Mcelroy, Marketing Director, Axiologik

As a business we volunteer with Fareshare to help them distribute surplus food, in the last year this food has created 4.2m meals for vulnerable people in the region. Most recently I have joined Fareshare as a board trustee to help shape the future growth strategy of the charity. I have seen first-hand the impact that access to good food has on communities, giving hope and creating the opportunity to come together. It is vital to ensure they have the right support from the private sector to deliver their services in the long term.

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