Social impact for competitive edge

26 Mar, 2019

Leading figures from the business community came together at an American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) and United Way breakfast hosted by AUT Business School last week to discuss corporate philanthropy and social responsibility as a way of delivering improved commercial, social and environmental outcomes.

Attendees heard from a panel of speakers from organisations including the American Consulate, United Way, NZ investment firm Forsyth Barr, global water solutions company Xylem and AUT Head of International Business, Strategy and Entrepreneurship Associate Professor Simon Mowatt.

Simon says businesses which are more responsive to the societies they operate in reap the benefits of better relationships with their customers and staff, such as increased loyalty, innovation, and better staff retention. Employees are interested in being part of an organisation making positive social contributions.

“Companies don’t operate in a vacuum, so the better they serve their stakeholders the better their performance. It seems clear that organisations that take their communities seriously do better, and that can include their financial performance.”

“By developing a positive longer-term holistic approach to the stakeholders they serve, they can better connect with the emerging needs of stakeholders in today’s complex environment. This can include meeting the needs of developing economy markets as well as current customers. Firms who look at problems as opportunities can grow as well as provide positive social impacts.”

“I think the panel have shown excellent examples of the benefits of embracing social value creation, and the strides that NZ businesses have made in this area recently.”

One of the speakers, US Consul General Katelyn Choe, says corporate social responsibility is an area that New Zealand has been moving on for some time, even without the prompting of a strong business case.

"[New Zealanders] understand ‘the why’ and it has been at the forefront of how goods are produced," she says. "[In terms of] the whole environmental factor and labour practices, NZ has a reputation which is a tremendous advantage because people associate it with being fairly made and good quality.”

“Kiwis understand what is important, which is life, safety and welfare. It’s almost a norm that is incorporated into business practices and the behaviours of the individual.”

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