Six things companies can learn about social responsibility from John Kinghorn

Six things companies can learn about social responsibility from John Kinghorn

John Kinghorn, who made $650 million after the sale of RAMS Home Loans, is set to give away nearly half his wealth – close to $300 million – to the Kinghorn Foundation. Instead of indiscriminately signing a cheque to charity and walking away, he has financially and emotionally committed to his cause to become the perfect model of corporate responsibility. Here’s why:

Choose only a few social issues to support 

The Kinghorn family foundation has a narrow focus on education, medical research and poverty alleviation. Based on these specific areas, Kinghorn and his wife, Jill, have opened the Kinghorn Cancer Centre, dedicating their energy to the alleviation of cancer.  
Choosing only a few causes with a clear focal point for corporate giving increases chances that the company (foundation) can actually have an impact as resources are focused and multiple initiatives are aimed at one cause. Once selected, committing wholeheartedly to your cause ensures it is not viewed as a marketing exercise. It will be also important to measure and report on the outcomes you have achieved, such as the number of people treated at the cancer centre.

Choose issues that are of concern in the communities where you do business, then think about how this initiative will give you visibility

This will improve the credibility and believability of “standard” statements in annual reports and sales catalogues such as, “we believe in giving back to the communities where we do business”. The Kinghorn Foundation’s focus on cancer is something most people care about and many have been affected by. The naming rights to the centre bring visibility to the Kinghorn name.

Choose causes that have synergy with your values, products and services

Just as we develop and offer products and services that are consistent with our company’s mission and then promote and deliver them in a way that reflects our company values, we should also choose areas of focus for social initiatives that have the same synergy. Cancer alleviation is something the Kinghorns deeply care about and is evident with their commitment to the cancer centre.

Choose causes that have potential to support business goals

Those goals might include marketing, supplier relations, increased productivity, cost reductions and gaining exposure.
Dell Computers supports causes that help its business goals with its ‘no computer should go to waste’ message. It has partnered with the National Cristina Foundation to allow customers to donate computer equipment to disadvantaged children. This creates positive media exposure and supports its environmental values by reducing landfill waste.
To support its marketing activities and the launch of a new product line of printers it has created a printer-recycling program. When customers purchase a new Dell printer they can recycle their outdated printers at no cost, which helps drive sales. It has also created the Dell ‘Direct Giving’ program where employees contribute to a non-profit of their choice to boost morale and productivity with staff.
All these activities ensure that Dell creates an improved corporate image through the visibility of its programs and decreases its operating costs. Its environmental initiatives reduce water, reuse materials and conserve water and electricity. There are also potential reduced advertising costs as free publicity is created – Dell usually features in Fortune’s ‘most admired companies’ list. It also ensures it has increased appeal to investors as it is less exposed to social, environmental and ethical risks.
Dell’s corporate responsibility model is successful as it has picked a few strategic areas of focus that fit with its corporate values and supports its business goals. It has chosen an issue related to its core products and markets that provide opportunities to meet marketing objectives like increased market share, market penetration and building a desired brand identity and selecting an issue the community, customers and employees care about most.

Choose issues that are of concern to key constituent groups: employees, target markets, customers, investors and corporate leaders

Support for social initiatives will be leveraged when the cause is also one near and dear to our key groups, both internal and external. The issue of cancer is extremely engaging for most Australians, however there are many other issues that have a similar power to engage, such as alleviation of poverty and hunger, education for disadvantaged children, or innovative environmental projects.

Choose causes that can be supported over a long term

Achieving maximum benefits for the company (and the cause) often depends on long-term commitments, frequently considered three or more years. Also, companies that stick with the cause over the years are more likely to be able to own it, as does The Body Shop after staying the course with campaigns against animal testing in the cosmetic industry.
The Kinghorn Cancer Centre is a long-term commitment and it is hoped the alleviation of cancer will become synonymous with the Kinghorn name.

Dora Nikols is the principal at Prickly Pear PR, an agency that specialises in corporate social responsibility by helping companies strategically support and promote the issues they care about to create meaningful PR. You can follow Dora on Twitter @DoraNikols.


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