MISSION POSSIBLE:
COMPANIES ACHIEVE SUSTAINABILITY VIA NONPROFIT BOARDS

By Josephine Victoria Yam, J.D., LLM.
2018 June 14

In these troubled times, businesses continue to be a shining force for good.

Take for instance, Lego, which makes colourful plastic bricks our children (and we) love to play with. It works with nonprofits to provide play-based quality education to vulnerable children.

Or Nike, which creates stylish running shoes with its iconic swoosh so we can "just do it". It uses responsible production processes such as recycled materials for its athletic gear.

Or Visa, which facilitates payments through credit cards so we can shop on Amazon in our pyjamas. It provides poor families with financial services so that they send their kids to school or buy a home.

Many large companies are tackling the world's big, hairy and audacious social and economic development goals. These global goals are outlined in the 2030 Agenda of the United Nations as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). They include ending extreme poverty, protecting our planet and eliminating gender inequality.

Sustainable Development Goals

The private sector's active participation is crucial to achieving these 17 SDGs. It alone possesses vast financial capital and human capital resources necessary to advance the 2030 Agenda.

Yet, these inspiring examples on Lego, Nike and Visa are not enough. The United Nations Global Compact 2017 report found that more than one-third of the 9,000 participating businesses are still not engaged with the 17 SDGs.

How then can more companies engage in the addressing the SDGs?

Enter IMPACT 2030, a private sector-led organization, which collaborates with the United Nations and other stakeholders under the banner of “Employees for the Global Goals”. Its mission is “to activate human capital investments through employee volunteer programs to advance the achievement of the SDGs”. It encourages companies to support employee volunteering to solve the world’s biggest problems.

And one way companies can address the SDGs is by supporting their employees to serve on nonprofit boards. Employees can share their time, talents and expertise at the board leadership level and make a huge impact in the nonprofits.

According to Sue Stephenson, Impact 2030's Vice Chair and Interim CEO:

“IMPACT 2030 is ideally suited to support nonprofit board service among companies because of the strong support from its corporate partners for advancing the impact of human capital investments for the SDGs”.

Impact 2030 recently partnered with Better World Leadership to develop human capital for a sustainable world. According to CSR expert Alice Korngold, who heads Better World Leadership:

“[N]onprofit board service is an effective pathway for companies seeking to grow shareholder value by… fostering economic development to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)".

The Better World Leadership report discusses why employees serving on nonprofit boards help achieve the SDGs which also benefits their companies.

 
Because employees lead the nonprofits towards advancing the various SDG-related nonprofit missions like good health (SDG3), quality education (SDG4) or sustainable cities (SDG11).
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Because employees work side-by-side with other individuals from diverse backgrounds to solve social problems. This gives them a broader, more nuanced understanding of how the SDGs affect their communities and their companies. They develop empathy and an external mindset, crucial for workplace diversity and inclusion.
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.
 
Because employees craft creative solutions to solve these problems using scarce resources. They bring this innovative thinking and creativity back to their companies. This gives their companies a distinct competitive advantage.
Professional women tend to lack effective mentors. Senior male leaders should provide women with career advice on how to move ahead. They should provide women actionable feedback on how to improve their skills. They should provide women tips on how to navigate corporate politics. When these happen, women are more likely to get promoted.

Nonprofit board service programs provide companies with a powerful opportunity to develop their employees as leaders while advancing the greater good. That creates a triple win – for the company, the employees and the nonprofits.

As Peter Thomson, President of the 71st Session of the UN General Assembly quipped:

“Every moment of service adds up to a better world for all on a healthy planet.”

RELATED BLOG POSTS

Serving on a nonprofit board is not only a meaningful way to give back to the community, it is also a powerful way to build valuable leadership experience. This is one of the most compelling reasons why our corporate clients have implemented our B3 Board Matching and Training Programs in their organizations.

While enhancing their Corporate Social Responsibility and Brand strategies, many large corporations and law firms consider our programs as solidly supporting their HR talent strategy to develop their high-potential employees. After all, talent development is a top priority in most leading organizations in Canada. So they view our programs as a strategic way of developing their top talent to drive business growth and gain a competitive advantage.

In these increasingly volatile times, I found it quite exhilarating to attend the recent Companies & Causes Canada Conference in Toronto. The super-successful “On Purpose” conference showcased how so many Canadian corporations are steadfastly doing well by doing good. Folks from both the corporate and nonprofit sectors gathered together to explore how purposeful business-nonprofit collaboration can be leveraged to build a better world.

After a decade from its inception, employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is now widely recognized as a way for Corporate Canada to meaningfully engage in local communities. Volunteer Canada heralds this significant development in its newly-released report, “Leading With Intention: Employer-Supported Volunteering in Canada”.

Through the Corporate Council on Volunteering (CCOV), Volunteer Canada and its corporate partners encourage businesses, regardless of their industry sector or size, to support the volunteer efforts of their employees. They believe that ESV strategically enables businesses, their employees and nonprofits to work together to achieve positive societal impacts in the world.

MEET OUR PARTNERS

  • Alberta's Promise operates within the Government of Alberta’s Department of Human Services. With over 1,800 business, nonprofit and community partners, they help businesses connect with non-profits across Alberta to make meaningful contributions that benefit children and youth ages 0 to 24.

  • CanadaHelps is a nonprofit serving Canadian charities and donors. They increase charitable giving across Canada by making it easier to donate and fundraise online. Because CanadHelps is a charity, their fees are a fraction of for-profit alternatives, making donation dollars go further.

  • The Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations is a member-based nonprofit organization founded in 2002 in Edmonton, AB. They serve the nonprofit and charitable organizations in the Alberta Capital Region.

  • The Ontario Nonprofit Network (ONN) is the provincial network for the approximately 55,000 nonprofit organizations across Ontario. As a 7,000-strong provincial network, with a volunteer base of 300 sector leaders, ONN brings the diverse voices of the sector to government, funders and business to create and influence systemic change.

  • For over 62 years, Propellus has been supporting volunteers and volunteerism within the communities of Calgary. It strongly believes that volunteering is essential to creating and sustaining healthy, supportive and connected communities.

  • The Sustainability Network is a national organization that works with environmental nonprofits to make them more effective and efficient. Their mission is to enrich environmental leaders and nonprofit organizations so that they can help us all achieve sustainability.

  • Founded in 1943, Vantage Point delivers learning opportunities focused on governance, leadership, planning and people engagement for new and seasoned sector leaders, board directors and managers, aimed at advancing not-for-profit leadership.

  • Women Get On Board is a leading member-based company that connects, promotes and empowers women to corporate boards. They do this through an engaged community of women and men in Canada committed to advancing gender diversity in the boardroom.

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