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Everyone's a winner - Sustainability column


AEGON sustainability experts discuss the idea of "strategic philanthropy".

AEGON sustainability experts discuss the idea of "strategic philanthropy".

Published in Economy & Finance
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  • 1. Everyone’s a winnerEvery year companies give away millions to good causes. It used to be amatter of simply choosing a charity and signing a cheque. Now, companiesare taking a more thoughtful approach. It’s not just a cheque anymore; it’s away of strengthening the company’s business.The idea is ‘strategic philanthropy’, and here’s how it should work: start bypicking a good cause that’s linked to your business and your values –something, in other words, that you believe in. People will see that, whenyou say you believe in something, you mean it. Customers will be morelikely to stick with you. Distributors and other business partners will want towork with you. With a bit of luck, employees will get involved and will feelhappier that they’re working for a company that cares about the community.Productivity will go up. Your business will benefit, and not just in terms ofbrand and reputation, which are difficult to measure, but in terms that youraccountants and auditors will understand – in dollars and cents.There are other spin-offs too: team up with a charity and it can help youbring in the kind of skills and perspectives that you simply don’t have withinthe company. It can help you broaden your employees’ horizons and it canhelp you solve problems. Win-winIt’s a win-win. The company benefits. The charity benefits from the money,time and resources you’re prepared to commit. And, most important of all,the cause – whether it’s a local community centre or blindness in thedeveloping world – also benefits.There is one big pitfall, of course. Cuddling up to a charity or a non-profitorganization simply because they will improve your image won’t work. Ifcustomers don’t see through you, your employees will. You’ll get none ofthe benefits – and your image, far from improving, will probably end upworse than it was before.
  • 2. You can’t fake sincerity. But, assuming you don’t try to, a more strategicapproach to corporate giving makes sense.A number of companies have already gone down this route. Bank ofAmerica’s Neighborhood Builders program, for example, contributesmillions to improve communities across the United States. The thinking isstraightforward enough – create more prosperous and vibrant localcommunities and you create a better environment for lending and investing.A second example is Lipton, the tea maker. For the past few years, Liptonhas been working with the Rainbow Alliance to make its tea 100%sustainable by improving living standards for growers and reducing theimpact on the environment. As a result, the company has been able to tapinto an upswing in consumer demand for certified sustainable tea inEurope, Asia and North America.It’s not easy to come up with a programme that will please everyone –customers, employees, management and communities. But it’s notimpossible – and, if you get it right, this new, more thoughtful approach tocorporate giving can pay big dividends.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------The views and opinions expressed in this document are solely those of theauthor and do not necessarily represent those of AEGON N.V. Thisdocument is for information purposes only and any reliance you place onsuch information is strictly at your own risk. AEGON N.V., its affiliates andthe author cannot be held responsible for the accuracy or reliability of thecontents of this document.