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Case Studies

Experian logo
Elevating and aligning Corporate Responsibility with global company vision
Creating a better tomorrow as a socially responsible strapline …

As the world’s largest credit bureau, Experian takes the issue of financial inclusion very seriously. Committed to ‘creating a better tomorrow’, the core business is built around the power of data and its ability to transform lives around the world, helping people to realise their dreams – whether that means buying a house, a car, celebrating a wedding, funding their family’s education, or starting a new business.

Since 2013, Experian has funded social innovation projects aimed at promoting financial well-being and helping people who have low credit scores or are credit ‘invisible’ due to having a limited financial track record. The programme has reached over 34 million people worldwide and provides around US$1.2million in internal product development funding each year, resulting in innovations and products aimed at promoting financial inclusion under the Experian brand.

Examples of Social Innovation products funded around the world include an app to improve financial confidence for people without bank accounts in South Africa, identity verification for those without formal documentation in India, and an online debt renegotiation platform in Brazil.

Experian aims to reach 100 million additional people through Social Innovation products and services by 2025.

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, Experian has also launched a new external Social Innovation fund with MIT Solve, as part of its Financial Health Recovery Programme.

Profit with Purpose has been working with Experian’s Corporate Responsibility team since 2019 to help elevate and align their vision and strategy to the company’s growth strategy, to make the best use of Experian’s resources, and to set goals and metrics to show progress towards their social impact objectives.

Purpose-driven, business-savvy

Experian’s Global Head of Social Innovation and UK&I Head of Corporate Responsibility, Richard Donovan, first met Profit with Purpose Founder Isabel Kelly at a Three Hands event on corporate social purpose where they were both speaking in 2018. Based on the strength of her presentation, Richard introduced himself and invited Isabel to be a guest speaker at Experian’s internal Corporate Responsibility (CR) conference later that year.

We bring our 15-strong Corporate Responsibility community together from across the globe each year and are always looking for credible and inspirational speakers we can engage with and learn from,” said Richard. “Isabel fit the bill perfectly. She was not only an insightful speaker, but she challenged the team to ask questions and look for answers. Her knowledge of the pivot point between the commercial and non-profit sectors was vital.”

Isabel’s presentation aligned well with the objective for the meeting set out by Abigail Lovell, Experian’s Global SVP for Corporate Responsibility, which was to elevate CR within the business to be fully aligned with the overall commercial vision and strategy, and to make use of the full set of available resources: people, profit and product.

View from the top – discovering management’s perspective

The CR team’s perception was that there was a low level of interest in their work from many in Experian’s management team; that it was seen as a nice-to-have, valuable for some employees, but unrelated to the company’s overall business objectives.

To better understand the approach to CR throughout the business, Isabel kicked off her work by speaking to around 50 global senior leaders: from the UK to the US, Brazil, Australia, Singapore and India. Braced for cynical responses, she was met with the opposite – not a single conversation was negative and leaders clearly articulated their passion and understanding for how Experian’s product, data and analytics have the potential to contribute significant social value for vulnerable communities.

From those conversations, Isabel and the Experian CR team received the endorsement they needed to start working towards globally consistent CR activities with high-level metrics, rolling up to a clear social impact vision focused on financial inclusion.

Isabel’s findings from her conversations were a huge step forward for us,” continued Richard. “It was as useful to discover what the management team didn’t value as what they did, and has allowed the CR team to have different conversations with them.”

Global vision, local actions

With clarity of direction and senior endorsement, Profit with Purpose and Experian agreed a set of activities and milestones including drafting the new high-level framework, defining key social impact metrics, and syncing messaging to Experian’s global communications strategy.

Experian has now started the global roll-out of their new Impact Framework, as described in the 2020 Sustainable Business Report:

“This Framework is supported by a global vision, principles, methods and metrics; and it takes into account potential internal and external challenges that we could face as a business.

Our Impact Framework is being rolled out at global and regional levels of the business. Each region can tailor the Framework to local social challenges, culture and employee engagement. Over the next twelve months, we plan to review our community investment, partnerships and local programmes to make sure they align with the new Framework’s focus on improving financial lives.”

The strategic shift of CR – combined with the Social Innovation agenda, community investment, and a new environmental strategy – have fulfilled the desired direction of the board, with Abigail Lovell presenting multiple times at recent board and leadership meetings.

The measure of success

Articulating the social impact being made was key for the elevation of CR at Experian. By focusing less on the inputs (money given, volunteer hours) as the end goal, and instead aligning inputs to a headline metric focused on financial health, Profit with Purpose – working with expert associate The Social Innovation Partnership – helped shift the CR team’s thinking to focus on key beneficiaries and  goals.

The 2020 Sustainable Business Report outlines this evolution, aimed at aligning Experian’s success measures with the United National Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

“Our goal is to be able to measure the number of people who have improved their financial lives as a result of Experian’s people, product and profit, and understand how many were unbanked or underbanked. We’re currently developing new metrics to more effectively measure the impact of our products and programmes on financial lives and our contribution towards the UN SDGs.”

This move toward using the UN’s SDGs as a bellwether for measuring success means that it’s not just the board taking a greater interest in the CR strategy; measurable social impact reported within agreed frameworks (including several already being used by Experian) is increasingly of interest to companies’ investor relations teams who are keen to be included in the growing number of sustainable or impact investment funds.

Crisis Response

Experian’s CR team had started to implement its new Impact Framework when COVID hit, so the groundwork was already in place to expand the CR strategy to include financial health and recovery.

“COVID has been a defining moment for us as a business. The dire financial impact of the virus will be devasting to so many communities, and it is our responsibility as a company to act,” said Richard.

“To ensure we could make the biggest impact on the communities suffering the most, we wanted to kick off the external fund and invite other investors to contribute.”

By this stage, the CR team viewed Isabel as a trusted colleague and got in touch with Profit with Purpose for support in helping to identify those communities hardest hit by the economic impact of the virus. Happy to help, the Profit with Purpose team carried out an initial triage exercise, speaking to organisations in their network of global NGOs and narrowing down the list of potential partners for Experian to approach for their COVID initiatives.

“We could not have accomplished this work on our own,” concluded Richard.  “Isabel and her associates bring extensive experience and expertise to every project and their network of connections has proved invaluable in helping us in our COVID response as well as implementing our CR strategy. Their independence means they can also offer valuable insights and perspective to the work they deliver.”

Kick it Out logo
Kick It Out
Planning for Focused Impact

Kick It Out is UK football’s equality and inclusion organisation. Over the last 20 years Kick It Out has worked throughout the football, education and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices and campaign for positive change.

Profit with Purpose worked with Kick It Out’s CEO to review key organisational successes and challenges and drafted a set of recommendations and actions to contribute to their new strategic plan.

Born from the ‘Let’s Kick Racism Out of Football’ campaign in 1993 in response to widespread calls from clubs, players and fans to tackle racist attitudes within the game, Kick It Out was established as an NGO in 1997. It has subsequently widened its objectives and programs significantly to cover all aspects of inequality and exclusion in football and works with The FA, the League, clubs, fans and players.

Now a 13-person team with 20 years of diverse and impactful programming under their belt, Kick it Out wanted objective, expert consulting assistance as they went about crafting a more focused organizational vision and strategic priorities to guide the organization and its stakeholders through the next phase of growth.   

To assist in this process, Profit with Purpose conducted a one-day download session with Kick It Out’s CEO. Together they reviewed organizational history, current reality, and key successes and challenges, examining the organization through a financial, operational and social impact lens.

Following the workshop Profit with Purpose produced a clear and instructive summary report covering key findings, prioritized recommendations, and a proposed structure for a new strategic plan.

Like many maturing nonprofits with a solid track record and established methods and programs, enlisting some experienced, objective consulting advice helped Kick It Out see the organization from a different perspective, identify their challenges, how best to use their resources and how to move towards implementing their future vision.

Working with Isabel was extremely helpful.” CEO Roisin Wood said. “She was empathetic, incisive and very practical, helping me refine and consolidate the strategy ideas I’ve had over the last few years and turn these into a clear plan for the year ahead. I feel confident in where I want to take things.

Stewarts logo
The Stewarts Foundation
Giving structure to great generosity

Profit with Purpose contributed to this project under the umbrella of Giving Evidence, founded by the brilliant Caroline Fiennes. Caroline has worked at charities, run charities and now focuses on ensuring that charitable giving is effective and based on evidence. As the title of her book says, It Ain’t What You Give, It’s the Way that you Give It’.

Stewarts asked Giving Evidence to review its charitable giving, which is done through The Stewart’s Foundation.

The Stewarts Foundation was set up in 2010 and has grown as the firm has grown; by 2016 it was giving considerable sums. The firm’s leadership wanted an expert eye to review how it could perform better. Grant-giving had diversified as partners, who are all trustees of the Foundation, had introduced new charities and themes.

Giving Evidence undertook a review and presented a plan intended to create a clear focus and grant-making structure for the Foundation, giving them a firm footing for the next 10 years.

Our data-gathering comprised reviewing grants for the last few years and other documentation including grant agreements, as well as interviewing the partners. We learned that the purpose of the Foundation is to make a significant social impact, to reflect the increased diversity of the firm’s activities, and to contribute to a sense of pride and cohesion throughout the firm and to its overall brand identity.

Based on our findings and knowledge of the social and philanthropic sectors we drafted a vision and set of values suggesting direction as well as structure for the grant-making. We introduced the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals as a framework to help choose between the diverse causes supported by the partners.

The Stewarts Foundation’s current vision, focus, and values as shared on the firm’s website:

The Foundation’s vision is to:
  • Create opportunities for the disadvantaged in our society
  • Treat people less fortunate than ourselves with compassion and respect
  • Make a substantial social impact by giving to excellent non-profits in the UK that are focussed on:
    • Alleviating poverty
    • Enabling access to justice
    • Supporting disability
    • Providing educational opportunity

The Foundation’s values align closely to those of the Firm and our staff:

  • Focus
  • Respect
  • Excellence

At the end of the engagement, we provided documentation giving a synthesis of all that we had heard, together with our recommendations and the next steps for the trustees. The document also provided further reading on effective charitable giving selected from Giving Evidence publications, for example about the benefit of unrestricted over restricted granting.

Finally, we provided a working document to guide implementation, to be reviewed on an annual basis by the trustees to ensure that their vision, values and the grant-making activities and themes they have chosen continue to be relevant. The working document contained recommendations for how to assess progress and report impact, as well as how to manage grantee relationships.

“Working with Giving Evidence to review The Stewarts Foundation helped us to upgrade and professionalise our charitable giving, including formalising agreements and expectations for the grant recipients and making those grants meaningful in size. We benefited from the expert insight provided by the Giving Evidence team’s many years of working in the field of effective social change.” Stewarts, October 2016

Sage logo
Sage Foundation
Formalising an existing philanthropic culture; creating delighted employees

In November 2014, new Sage CEO Stephen Kelly brought a new vision for the 35-year-old FTSE100 company, including creating the Sage Foundation.

Sage debunked the myth that it’s impossible to ‘retrofit’ philanthropy into an established company; Sage employees were already finding ways to give their time and technology to nonprofits from the UK to South Africa, North America and beyond.

My six-month task was to discover what was already being done around the world and bring it together with into a global strategy with a clear vision, mission, structure and funding model.

Sage decided to commit to giving 2% of employee time, 2% of free cash flow and 2 donated licenses of its three flagship products to support eligible registered nonprofits.

As a company which is passionate about its SME customer base, it became clear that the focus for Sage’s philanthropy should be on creating social equality and economic opportunity in the communities where they operate around the world.

Working closely with the one existing CSR manager and a former Salesforce Foundation colleague, I created a Vision for Board approval, and an outline for employee engagement, grant programs, and a product donation program, together with recommendations on the structure, funding model, technology, and governance requirements.

I supported the internal and external announcement of the Foundation. I hired a small global team and supported them as they began their implementation of the Sage Foundation employee engagement, grants, and product donation programs.

They now have a Foundation leader and new team members in place and their Vision for Sage’s philanthropy is becoming fully embedded as a core part of the company.

My abiding memory at Sage will be the almost tangible excitement from employees on hearing about the launch of the Sage Foundation; for many of them, it was something they had longed for.

One employee emailed me saying he’d thought he was going to have to leave the company to fulfill his philanthropic passion, but now he had five volunteering days, access to grants and had the company’s endorsement for bringing his passion for social change into the workplace, he was more than happy to stay where he was.


Previous Work

Salesforce Foundation logo
Bringing together people, grants and technology to maximise impact

Since its birth in 1999 the global Salesforce Foundation now (salesforce.org) has delivered hundreds of thousands of employee volunteering hours, donated over $100m in grants and given Salesforce technology to 28,000 nonprofit and education organisations.

Its reach stretches from Silicon Valley to London’s Silicon Roundabout to Nairobi’s Silicon Savannah.

With the extraordinary leadership of Salesforce Founder Marc Benioff and the gift of seven days’ volunteer time per employee, 1% of salesforce product, 1% of pre-IPO equity and two markets (nonprofit & education), we realised that bringing these resources together delivered powerful, integrated and self-sustaining philanthropic programs.

A core tenet of Salesforce’s philanthropy is to get great technology into the hands of nonprofit and education organisations who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it.

As Director of EMEA and then International, I was responsible for creating a robustly governed international Product Donation Program ensuring that any eligible nonprofit or education organisation in over 110 countries could receive, and make good use of, donated Salesforce product.

Nonprofits make amazing use of Salesforce technology to enhance their impact; from fundraising to supporting youth entrepreneurship and managing child welfare, from tackling homelessness to providing sanitation in slums.

In 2008 the Salesforce Foundation moved into a revenue generating model. Beyond donating salesforce technology to nonprofits, we started selling additional licenses at an 80% discount, with all income funding the growth, grants and programs of the Foundation.

From 2010 I implemented this model internationally as a business unit within salesforce.com, using the existing corporate sales, legal, governance and tax structures. We quickly became profitable, growing to $12m revenue at the end of 2014, and winning global nonprofit household names as customers.

We supported many Partners in the Salesforce ecosystem to develop products and service offerings for the Foundation’s customers as a way of creating their own integrated corporate philanthropy.

And one of our goals was to unleash the philanthropist in every employee by empowering them to use their volunteer time to fulfil their passion for whatever issue was important to them; helping kids to read, giving their skills to implement salesforce for a charity, teaching rugby at a school in Africa.

Over the years we ran BizAcademy; a grant-funded collaboration with nonprofits around the world, which engaged hundreds of Salesforce volunteers teaching Salesforce technology and sales to young people as skills for employment.

Conceived in San Francisco, my team and I rolled BizAcademy out across the world, reaching hundreds of young people in the US, UK, Ireland, Japan, India, Australia, Singapore and beyond.

Each young person got a helping hand into an apprenticeship, internship, job or further education through participation in this program. They had mentors and developed relationships with employees that opened doors for them into the next stage of their life.

At Salesforce, volunteering is as varied as the employees, and participation rates are extremely high at 80%. Employees often cite the Foundation among the top reasons that they love working for the company.

Salesforce’s 1% model of integrated philanthropy has lead the way for many other companies to Pledge 1% of their own time, product or profit for social impact.