This time, it’s serious: Covid and the new age of co-creation with corporate social investors
Covid-19 is sparking a significant “cultural shift” within businesses, experts say, helping to move past the notion of corporate foundations as a tokenistic gesture towards doing good.
Carola Carazzone (pictured), secretary general of Assifero – the Italian national membership association of grantmaking foundations – told Pioneers Post that a deeper engagement between companies and their corporate social investors was helping to shed the idea of the latter as merely “a nice-to-have”.
The role of corporate social investors was also broadening due to the upheavals of this year’s pandemic, she said. “What I’ve been hearing is that the silo vision, the one-size-fits-all approach – only corporate foundations, only grantmaking – is over. People are starting to think in a much more systematic way. People are really embracing complexity.”
The one-size-fits-all approach – only corporate foundations, only grantmaking – is over. People are starting to think in a much more systematic way
Carazzone was speaking following a discussion at last week’s C Summit, an online conference co-organised by EVPA and Dafne, in which representatives from two organisations linked to multinational insurance firms described some unexpected positive effects of Covid-19.
Both the Human Safety Net Foundation, set up by Italy’s Generali Group, and the Ageas Foundation, part of Ageas Portugal, had collaborated more closely with their respective parent firms this year, tapping into additional financial and non-financial capital and using a wider range of tools for social impact than before, said Carrazzone.
Emma Ursich (pictured), group head of corporate identity of Generali Group as well as executive officer of the company’s Human Safety Net Foundation, which supports refugees and vulnerable young children, said Covid had “not really changed” strategic alignment between the two organisations, “but in many ways it has accelerated it”.
As part of a €100m Covid emergency fund created by Generali, the foundation has issued grants and drawn on company expertise to support beneficiaries and partners. It is continuing to “add elements gradually” to its strategy, said Ursich. One new initiative is a ‘young talent’ project, enabling company employees to work alongside an NGO partner of the foundation or on product development. “We feel this is a great way to bridge that gap between the core business and the philanthropic element,” she said.
The talent project is a great way to bridge that gap between the core business and the philanthropic element
Ageas Foundation has also been able to tap into that desire to help, re-engaging many corporate volunteers who had been inactive, said Katrien Buys, director of strategy, innovation and sustainability at Ageas Group Portugal.
“Our foundation is very, very strong because it can count on so many volunteers,” she said, adding that work on a digital platform had helped to keep more volunteers “activated” beyond a one-off contribution.
EVPA chair Steven Serneels echoed Carazzone’s optimism, saying his conversations with EVPA members suggested 2020 had been “an awakening” for many firms and a realisation “that only going for profit is a short-term strategy”. Company directors were seeing that they had to be “part of the solution”, he added, and might now “put more weight and expect more contribution from the corporate social investor in co-creating that journey.”
However, Serneels acknowledged that for some companies the economic hit of Covid could still lead to a drop in funds allocated to their foundation – echoing concerns heard elsewhere at this week’s C Summit.
And, while Ageas Foundation had convinced managers at its parent company to redirect some of their bonuses to its projects, Buys said even this positive step was “not structural”, and that scaling up financially over the long term would still be a challenge.
Pioneers Post was a media partner of the C Summit, which took place on 3-4 December, organised by EVPA and Dafne. Find all our reporting from the event here.
Header image by Aashti Miller, submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives – help stop the spread of Covid-19.