Giving Well

Giving well. Realising long-term community investment strategy via responsive reporting

Meaningful Connections

The corporate-community nexus has changed. Ten years ago, it was enough for organisations to donate time or money to community groups with no purpose other than sponsorship, charitable giving, or distant public relations.

Smart companies today are involved in strategic and transactional Community Investment (CI), where business activities and values are aligned with community impacts. However, monitoring and reporting is too often a complex task, because it depends on measuring tangible and intangible contributions as well as abstract results.

Reporting and communicating the inputs, outputs, and ultimately the impacts of CI is vital to track progress and demonstrate results and value to key stakeholders. More than that, reporting is integral to applying core management functions to CI.  Monitoring CI programs allows businesses to evaluate current initiatives and plan future approaches.

Supporting Mirvac’s sustainability strategy

For Mirvac, one of Australia’s leading property groups, Community Investment plays a big part in their extensive sustainability strategy titled This Changes Everything.

In addition to their own sustainability and community investment reporting needs, Mirvac is a long-term member of LBG Australia & New Zealand (LBG A & NZ), the global standard for measuring corporate community investment. LBG A & NZ provides a tried-and-trusted framework for CI measurement, and a practical tool for categorising activities including contributions, charitable outputs and the short- and long-term impacts on their communities.

Mirvac was using spreadsheets to collect, collate and report data to LBG A & NZ, a manual process that meant information was often incomplete or miscategorised.

Mirvac Sustainability Manager Sarah Breavington says measurement was onerous and costly in terms of time and resources. A disproportionate emphasis on correcting, interpreting, and completing data for reporting meant CI objectives were blurred.

Without the appropriate systems and processes in place, we had little time for engagement across the business about the purpose of collecting the data or the ability to really interrogate what we were collating
— Sarah breavington, Sustainability Manager, Mirvac
 

An overview of Mirvac’s extensive and impressive sustainability strategy This Changes Everything is available here

 

Mirvac partners with Systar

Mirvac needed a solution, and turned to Systar for assistance.  Mirvac was already using Systar’s iSystain platform for other aspects of their sustainability reporting. This coupled with four years’ experience of manual tracking and reporting of CI data had given Mirvac clear direction in their requirements. Systar’s brief was to extend iSystain to:

  • Enable real-time capture of qualitative and quantitative CI data from the source
  • Remove the need to manually sort, finalise, and categorise data
  • Improve the quality and integrity of the information collected
  • Enable fast and effective data analysis across the portfolio as well as within individual projects
  • Incorporate the CI data into their broader Sustainability Reporting data set
  • Produce an LBG A & NZ compatible export.

Completing the circle with LBG Australia & New Zealand

In order to meet the brief, the iSystain platform needed to align with the LBG A & NZ framework. To achieve this, the Systar team worked closely with Australian LBG A & NZ Director Simon Robinson at the design stage and his team through the testing stages.

For Simon, the benefits of measuring using LBG A & NZ include the ability to
benchmark against local and global peers and competitors, as well as report into broader sustainability standards such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. This provides more meaningful comparisons for investors and other stakeholders.

To do this, you’ve got to compare apples with apples. The iSystain platform needed to categorise according to the correct language and definitions in line with the LBG A & NZ model
— Simon Robinson Director, Australian LBG A & NZ
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For Sarah, the collaboration was essential to fulfilling the brief. For Sarah, the collaboration was essential to fulfilling the brief.

Because the iSystain system aggregates data according to the LBG A & NZ framework, the mad rush to complete, aggregate, classify, and report data has gone as we can ensure this is managed throughout the year.

Building Responsiveness

In line with the existing iSystain solutions, directors Jenni Mulligan and Don Smy wanted to develop a streamlined, flexible and integrated solution. They believe the great advantage of iSystain is its built-in responsiveness to different data capture and reporting requirements.


Don explains:

Capturing contribution data is very different to capturing impact data. Contribution data is typically fine-grained and specific, whereas impact data is often qualitative, more difficult to ascertain, and typically reported at a different level to inputs and outputs.
The beauty of iSystain’s CI platform is that the data capture processes for inputs, outputs, and impacts are completely uncoupled. Aggregated data can be deployed to very different roles across business units, divisions, or regions

Big impacts on the bigger picture

Bottom line impacts since implementing iSystain for CI data capture and reporting have been significant. Prior to implementation, Mirvac’s total community investment including volunteering, cash, in-kind contributions, and management costs were measured at $1.25M AUD using the spreadsheet system. In the first year using iSystain, the figure reported rose to $1.9M AUD, and $2.1M AUD the year after that.

According to Sarah “The biggest impact has been to see our contribution almost double. We’re capturing more data and better data. We now have real-time information collection and the information is much more complete and accurate than it was before we started with the system.”

Aligning the iSystain system to LBG A & NZ helped Mirvac identify integrity issues with classification. This enabled them to see the bigger CI picture.

Because of the transparency of the system, we can see the expenditure and all the different community investment activities — essentially who’s doing what, where, with whom, and how much,” Sarah continues. “But most importantly, this then enables us to open up a discussion with the business about where investments are being made, how individuals can access and use the data, and why the data collection is important.

Advancing all together

 

LBG A & NZ’s Simon Robinson believes quality data collection is the building block to realise long-term community investment value for both the community and the business. It’s a win for all.

“LBG A & NZ provides the framework so companies know what to collect, but it’s not a vacuum cleaner that makes dinner.” Simon continues “Organisations like Mirvac still need to collect quality data that can then be used to tell a story over time. Strategic tools like iSystain’s CI platform guide the journey because they consistently map where they have been, and help clarify where they are going.”

Sarah places iSystain firmly in the future of Mirvac’s CI reporting. “The iSystain system has helped us to evaluate our investments with the same sort of scrutiny for return and value as other expenditure under financial control protocols,” she says. “Now that the iSystain system is established and we have several years of data collected, we can look to further increase and refine our measurement of impacts.”

Mirvac is using the LBG A & NZ framework because it’s the right thing to do for companies serious about CI. The framework drives and structures investment in the community with the intention of delivering measurable and positive outcomes. Committing to this outcome is one thing but implementing it is another.

That’s where iSystain’s value becomes apparent. We’ve created a system which streamlines and flexes with how companies manage and report their CI activities and at the same time aligns with the LBG A & NZ framework making it easy to report directly through to LBG A & NZ.

Interested in seeing more?

 

Email the Systar Team at sales@systar.com.au to organise a free one hour consultation on your CI reporting needs and a web demo.

To find out more about the benefits of becoming an LBG Australia & New Zealand member, email Simon on lbganz@corporate-citizenship.com.

 
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