B4SI News

Q&A – New Zealand delivering impacts for society

Q&A – New Zealand delivering impacts for society

How are New Zealand companies and community organisations making an impact on society? We asked the Founder and Director of BACS: Business and Community Shares Julie Donvin-Irons and the CEO of Volunteering New Zealand Scott Miller to reflect on the state of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in New Zealand.



“Huge leaps into good CSR” – Julie Donvin-Irons

Julie is well established in community investment, as a previous senior manager within the Prince of Wales’ Trusts in the UK, a world-leading organisation in CSR. She has also worked in New Zealand in the capacity of CEO for charities before forming BACS.


  1. What’s the state of corporate social responsibility in New Zealand?

It’s mixed. There are businesses that are absolutely top of the scale and others still in the depths of ‘how to market our charitable giving’ with a belief that it will just make them look good. Over the six years that BACS has been operating we have seen companies make huge leaps into good CSR. This is being supported by their global experiences and learning as well as organisations such as ours promoting better systems and reporting.

  1. What can companies, and others including investors, learn about the organisation through the BACS Social Index?

We’ve been delighted with the support the BACS Social Index has received from companies realising the opportunities for learning.

Whilst we were busy assessing results of the businesses involved with the BACS Good Business Egg Awards we noticed the same names coming up each year. Hence our building the annual Index, which provides information on who is doing well in CSR from a community angle.

The Index provides a useful tool for businesses to be aware of what others are doing in the CSR space, and we think government and community organisations as well as customers would like to know this too. Although our scale of reporting does not provide deep analysis, it’s a simple, clean way of collecting data to see where companies come out. This index is a collection that captures good examples that are acknowledged by community rather than a set of examples curated by the businesses.

The BACS Social Index presents what is considered successful by community standards of CSR in New Zealand, providing real, grassroots commentary on what can be a complex picture of corporate responsibility sometimes made more complicated by slick marketing messages and poor reporting by some businesses. It also reveals leading practise.

Participating in the BACS Good Business Egg Awards requires businesses to front up with evidence of good CSR practice. Wafflers and boasters have nowhere to hide!

The other benefit is that the BACS Social Index is based on data collected over two years of the annual BACS Good Business Egg Awards.

The BACS Social Index identifies stellar social performers and encourages conversations about how to deliver on CSR goals in a way that is valuable, meaningful and digestible for all partners. These conversations lead to opportunities to share skills and knowledge between organisations.

The Index completes the framework suite to share, acknowledge and learn from the Eggs, Business Reviews and the BACS Living Award. It also encourages and supports continuous improvement in CSR in New Zealand.

  1. What are the biggest opportunities for New Zealand companies to have an impact on society?

The concept of ‘shared value’ is heard more often now, the idea that all parties attain value (mana) and some companies develop projects simply because they want to make a difference for society, albeit it is likely that it will benefit them in the long term: better educated, healthier people.

Working and sharing together is vital, being involved with NZ social issues is not a competitive arena, but one where leadership is required and it is those companies that align their business with the needs of the community.  We are BACS , business and community shares!



“Handful of local multi-nationals leading by example” – Scott Miller

Scott leads the strategic and operational delivery of Volunteering New Zealand’s outputs and outcomes. His extensive cross-sector experience in public, private and NGO roles ensures the organisation’s people, purpose and priorities are both sustainable and sector-leading.

  1. What’s the state of corporate social responsibility in New Zealand?

I believe that CSR in New Zealand is ‘lumpy’. There are a handful of local multi-nationals leading by example (e.g. the same ones being recognised at BACS Good Egg Awards every year), then a lot more that have good intentions, but either through a lack of strategic planning or execution, fail to provide the impetus that could truly transform both organisations and community partners. The other 80% of the corporate sector remains dormant, waiting for millennials to take hold and lead more meaningful social engagement with the community sector.

2. What are the key things corporate organisations need to know about working with community partners?

I believe the key thing corporate organisations need to remember is that community organisations are not charity cases that need ‘saving’. Yes they lack some of the institutional resources that are taken for granted in a corporate environment, but this makes them capacity constrained, not incapable.

Additionally, NGOs need on-going, deep dialogue and engagement (aka transformative relationships) not transactional relationships made to serve the interests of the corporate almost to the detriment of the NGO. The often zero-sum games corporate volunteering ends up in with community organisations shows the immaturity of the NZ CSR sector. A great article on the relationship between community and corporate organisations can be found here.

3. How can community organisations better understand corporate organisations?

I believe a lot of community organisations view corporate organisations as cash-flush, willing to donate. Rather, I believe that the real win-win magic happens when community organisations build long-term and meaningful relationship that might mean on-going access to mentoring, meeting-rooms, or other non-cash transactions. This often takes place through pre-existing networks, so it would be great to see how community organisations can take more responsibility for leading this work.


Want to learn more about CSR in New Zealand? Join Simon Robinson from 12-20 April when LBG is in Auckland and Wellington.

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