Leo D'Angelo Fisher Columnist

Leo covers management and leadership issues, business trends and corporate strategy. He is a former senior business writer at The Bulletin and a former host of The Business Hour on 3AW.

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Giving for profit

Published 21 March 2012 12:57, Updated 29 March 2012 11:24

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There is a growing view among corporate philanthropists that there is more to making a difference in the community than hosting benefit nights and signing big cheques.

Instead, they believe they are more likely to achieve lasting change by applying their business acumen to the challenge of overcoming entrenched disadvantage.

Recruitment industry pioneer Geoff Morgan has a long-standing commitment to stamping out the discrimination and inequalities that keep the disadvantaged out of work or under-utilised, especially in the indigenous community, “because, sadly, the most disadvantaged are indigenous Australians”, he says.

Morgan and business partner Andrew Banks co-founded recruitment powerhouse Morgan & Banks in the 1980s and in 2003 they teamed up again to start listed recruitment and human resources group Talent2. Morgan is a director – Banks is chairman – and he believes the best contribution he can make to getting more indigenous people in jobs, and in better jobs, is to do what he does best: be a recruitment entrepreneur.

In February, Talent2 and the non-profit Aboriginal Employment Strategy formed a “working partnership” aimed at making it easier for indigenous people to be considered as candidates for trainee-management and management positions by employers.

“With this partnership we are placing our immense knowledge and experience in recruitment at the disposal of AES and their customers,” Morgan says.

The key is to make indigenous candidates more visible to employers by creating a database of skilled candidates – from school leavers to experienced employees – and by providing candidates with mentoring and skills in creating resumes and career planning. The partnership will connect Talent2’s blue-chip client list with candidates.

“This agreement is about indigenous people partnering with non-indigenous people to get good outcomes for indigenous people,” Morgan says. “If we’re successful [as a business] we’ll go ahead together.”

Talent2 already has a partnership with online resume service LinkMe and indigenous-owned employment service Indigenous Success Australia . Their joint venture, Indigenous Careers Australia, operates as a Talent2 business unit.

Management consultancy A.T. Kearney describes this combination of business and community interests as “operational shared value”. When companies bring giving to the community into their core business, they are more likely to contribute more to those communities, while strengthening their own business, says A.T. Kearney partner Phil Harkness .

He says operational shared value is an emerging concept but represents only about 10 per cent of corporate social investment, or CSI. “Shared value is a completely different way to look at [CSI]: it becomes part of the value chain, not something outside of it,” he says.

“Social investment initiatives are [most often] centred on traditional models of philanthropy but because it’s not viewed as core to the business in today’s uncertain economic environment, many see CSI as easy to cut, hard to measure and difficult to control.”

Telstra’s executive director of solutions and business development, Barry Pipella, says companies are increasingly mindful of contributing to the well-being of communities in which they operate. However, he cautions that corporate philanthropy often is limited by companies being motivated by emotion or a sense of “doing the right thing”.

Companies are much more likely to maintain their commitment to CSI programs, he says, by applying the rigour of a business case to those activities.

Pipella sits on the board of Business for Millennium Development (B4MD), which encourages companies to adopt “inclusive business strategies” – building CSI into a company’s operational structure – to assist developing nations overcome poverty. It is a signatory to the UN Millennium Development Goals for the alleviation of poverty through economic development.

“By developing commercially viable businesses in the emerging markets of the Asia-Pacific region in which they are doing business,” he says, “Australian companies have the opportunity to lift these communities from their poverty and disadvantage as well as create a competitive advantage for themselves.”

“By helping to create small businesses in these communities the flow-on benefits are immense and sustainable – it creates jobs, improves health and essential services and gets kids into schools.”

B4MD’s first venture was in Papua New Guinea in 2009 when Oil Search, Goodman Fielder, Agility Logistics and Visy formed business alliances with remote farmers and communities to source food and services for people in work camps on the $US15 billion liquefied natural gas pipeline project in the PNG Southern Highlands.

“I’m reminded of when environmental issues started to become critical in tenders and a company would be asked ‘What’s your environmental policy?’ as part of the tender process,” Pipella says.

“I hope the time will come when companies will be asked ‘What is your company doing to alleviate poverty in the developing world?’”

Sense: Barry Pipella, above, says businesses can
gain a competitive edge by helping communities in developing nations, below

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