Corporate citizenship and brand: Striking the right balance
- Posted on August 5, 2019
- Estimated reading time 4 minutes
Getting corporate citizenship right can be challenging. It’s a topic that’s been on my mind recently as we focus on a new vision for corporate citizenship at Avanade: to enable young people and their communities to achieve more through the power of our people and digital innovation.
Don’t let the brand lead
Part of the challenge is getting the right balance between corporate citizenship and the brand. Your corporate citizenship strategy needs to be connected to your brand essence and focus on what your company and your people are passionate about. But it shouldn’t be treated as a “brand initiative.” In other words, the brand should influence a company’s corporate citizenship efforts, not lead them. Microsoft’s focus on accessibility is an example. The company has put increasing emphasis on adapting their products to be more inclusive and accessible, which is clearly linked to their brand but extends beyond the brand itself.
At Avanade, we’ve taken a similar approach by focusing many of our corporate citizenship efforts on tech-related programs, such as helping young people prepare for the future workforce, supporting women in STEM and providing technology support for non-profits. They’re connected to what we do as a business, but they’re more important than the brand per se. They’re about doing the right thing and engaging our people.
Our Avanade STEM Scholarship is an example. The program invests in the future of young women and offers a scholarship, internships, mentoring and a support network to help recipients achieve their education and career growth. Since the program’s launch in 2015, we’ve partnered with 12 universities around the world and provided scholarships to 67 young women, several of whom joined Avanade following graduation. Here’s what one of our STEM scholars has to say about the impact of the scholarship on her life:
Take a well-rounded approach
The success of the STEM program has taught us that getting employees engaged in corporate citizenship activities requires focusing on something they care about. But different people care about different things. It’s essential to provide a well-rounded approach that offers employees different ways to get involved and to give back. In addition to the STEM Scholarship, our approach includes several other programs that offer ample opportunity for employee participation.
Technology for Social Good: We know that non-profits and the social sector as a whole face systemic challenges in using technology; yet they stand to benefit significantly from new systems and tools. With our Technology for Social Good program we’re partnering with Microsoft Philanthropies to bring the power of the cloud and digital technology to non-profits to transform their workplaces and accelerate their social impact. SOS Children’s Villages International is an example where we’re working with a non-profit organization to upgrade its systems to help deliver greater impact to more children. Our Technology for Social Good program also offers opportunities for our people to work with the non-profit organizations.
Junior Achievement: Through our partnership with Junior Achievement we support the development of youth skills for the digital era to help equip the future workforce, which is a key business focus for us. We’re also Junior Achievement Worldwide’s global technology partner. The partnership provides the chance for our people to volunteer in a variety of ways, including being mentors. Late last year, I had the opportunity to work with a group of Junior Achievement students to help them create their personal brand. It’s safe to say that I got as much out of the experience as they did. And recently our marketing leadership team took time during our annual planning meeting to work with a group of JA students.
Avanade Gives: Like many companies, we also want to provide our people with an opportunity to tailor their corporate citizenship efforts to their own interests. They can do that through the Avanade Gives program, which is a charitable initiative that enables employees to contribute to non-profit organizations and be eligible for company-match giving. They can also create their own giving opportunity and ask other people to donate to help achieve a goal.
Good for the community and good for the brand
Our journey has made it clear that getting corporate citizenship right is a tricky line to walk. The focus should be on doing good for the community and engaging employees in a way that makes sense for your brand. If you strike that balance, then you’ll also be doing good for your business and your brand.