In 2019, corporate Australia’s generosity according to the GivingLarge report was noticeably on the rise. Investment in community causes was up 11 per cent as organisations deepened their commitment to drive social, financial or environmental change.
When the bushfires and COVID-19 struck in 2020, the nation’s private sector dug even deeper. To claim a spot on the nation’s top 50 donors list established by Strive Philanthropy, the threshold jumped from $2.5 million to a whopping $4.3 million.
While mining and financial services dominated large-scale giving, Aussie grown brands such as Sargents Pies ($6 million) and Who gives A Crap ($5.8 million) also provided significant contributions to support those in need.
Extraordinarily, donations over the last 12 months coincided with a decline in pre-tax profits of up to 30 per cent. So, are we witnessing genuine philanthropy – or simply an old type of corporate investment on a new scale?
Kris White, IMPACT’s consulting behavioural psychologist believes the increase in giving coincides with a period of transformational leadership across corporate Australia.
‘You’ll be hard pressed to find a business leader who hasn’t been personally impacted by the events of the last 12 months. Whether they faced logistical or environmental challenges from the bushfires or the serious burden of supporting employee wellbeing during a global pandemic, 2020 changed corporate Australia,” says Kris.
Key to this transformation, according to Kris, is the significant switch to a ‘do’ then ‘tell’ mentality among Australia’s private sector.
“The challenges faced by society and the number of crises to tackle continue to increase. Businesses across the country recognise the need to provide grassroots support for their communities.
“We are well beyond the old CSR activities. This is about creating shared value; it’s a wartime mentality (the superordinate goal) that necessitates a ‘get the job done’ mentality from all,” says Kris.
According to Kris it’s not just cash that is free flowing the in the corporate sector, time resources and assets have been made available too.
“Organisations have shown how quickly they can adapt to new production demands or deployed staff to support essential services, not to be ‘good’ or build brand recognition, but because these jobs and services are needed in the community,” says Kris.
While the ‘keep calm and carry on’ mentality is driving a pragmatic approach towards corporate giving, Kris believes the trend could have a more lasting effect on leadership in Australia.
“When the pandemic subsides leaders will need to reconcile their experiences and learnings with the demands of the business world. The hope is that leaders can retain much of the empathy gained throughout this crisis to make both businesses and the communities in which they operate richer,” concludes Kris.