77% of New Zealand organisations recognise corporate citizenship is important, but they’re not yet well equipped to deal with this trend. In fact, only 18% of New Zealand businesses say that citizenship is a top priority reflected in their corporate strategy. Alexandra Nott discusses the potential reasons behind that revealing figure...

New Zealand continues to be affected by complex, dynamic and seemingly ambiguous challenges, such as poverty, unemployment and healthcare access, which cost our economy millions of dollars a year. There’s also a greater awareness that rapid technological change, although providing valuable opportunities, could also have an unforeseen impact, undermining social cohesion and negatively affecting some of NZ’s most vulnerable and dispensable workers.

As drivers of technological change, and due to a perceived lack of action by political and social institutions, people now expect business to play a part in channelling this force towards the wider community, ensuring that our exciting future of work is also sustainable on a societal level.

Workers also expect more from their organisations. Employees want to be treated in a fair, transparent and unbiased way, while working in an environment that promotes wellbeing and flexibility. Millennials are particularly concerned with the social, environmental and cultural impacts of the business sector – and the 2018 Deloitte Millennials Survey cites a huge gap between the expectations of New Zealand’s millennial employees, and the priorities of the organisations they work for. However, this view doesn’t just apply to the millennial workforce; organisations that align their purpose with the beliefs of its workers tend to see a 30% increase in levels of innovation, and a 40% boost in retention levels.

Organisations must protect their reputations, sales and talent by committing to being ‘good’ corporate citizens, including investing in and actively managing the trends that are shaping today’s world.

Why do NZ organisations find this difficult?

The way we measure success in business tends to focus on financial outcomes such as profit, and it’s difficult to put a number on social, environmental or cultural progress. In addition, traditional employment relations are rooted in the industrial age, and focused on a ‘reciprocal’ mindset that measures worth on what each party provides and receives in return.

We need a fundamental shift in the employer-employee relationship, focusing more on the value offered by a collective group of individuals bound together for a single purpose. Companies should also recognise that these groups are responsible not only for putting money in the pocket of shareholders, but for the holistic wellbeing of society and each other.

It also comes down to the way we work. In past Global Human Capital Trends reports, Deloitte has noted the movement of many organisations towards a ‘network of teams’ operating model, that enables greater collaboration and internal agility. Now, this movement has been joined by a shift towards the external ecosystem, recognising that no organisation can survive without responding to its environment.

Many traditional businesses are not used to collaborating with external stakeholders, public institutions and partner organisations, but this way of working is becoming increasingly vital as organisations attempt to tackle problems. Whether in business, government, non-profits or social enterprises, leaders must break traditional boundaries with innovative social solutions if they’re to achieve meaningful change. 

Where should organisations start?

  1. Take stock of the broader social ecosystem by investing in the development, vision and wellbeing of your own employees.
  2. Embed your organisation’s social impact strategy into your core identity and purpose, and then weave this into your corporate strategy and brand.
  3. Explore how technology can be used to re-shape your organisation’s culture, and drive positive customer and employee experience.
  4. Empower all individuals within your organisation to speak up and take action, and re-shape organisational culture to create capacity for individuals to adopt a social impact focus.
  5. Build relationships and collaboration opportunities with external organisations driven towards the same social impact vision.

Corporate responsibility is no longer a matter of altruism – it is critical to maintaining an organisation’s reputation; for attracting, retaining and engaging critical workers, and cultivating loyalty among customers.

Find out more about our Social Impact practice here.

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