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Corporate Client Team

Charities Aid Foundation


When you're a global company it’s not always easy to have all your regional counterparts singing from the same hymn sheet.

There are even more complexities when you are picking a charitable cause to support, and are making plans on how to implement corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies across each and every site.

Earlier this month, together with our collaborative partner Skating Panda, we hosted a few clients to discuss the challenges that come with that.

Many of our guests were relieved to learn they faced many of the same challenges, and shared some useful tips on how to overcome them.

Here are some of the key highlights and insights from the discussion:

1 The challenge of cultural differences in giving

One of the main issues in filtering down from a global approach to local contexts is the difference in cultural approaches to charitable giving. Different regions and areas will naturally have a different priority list of issues they want to tackle. When you’re at the local level, an issue that globally might be a priority may just not matter as much as something that is closer to home. This can then impact their level of engagement in a specific cause area.

A similar scenario can play out at a national level between different regions in the UK.

After all, choosing the right cause to support is a very personal process – it can also be tricky settling this between individuals, particularly when senior leadership have individual passions they want to focus on.

2 The challenge of scaling

When you have 1,000 people in one office versus 50 people in another office, how do you scale up plans and ensure your corporate responsibility delivery is implemented consistently in the smaller office?  

And if you are in an office that only has 50 people, will there be the same appetite and confidence to implement a global strategy? This second point is something that really stood out during the event. Our participants spoke about regional offices often feeling intimidated by bigger offices and what they are able to achieve in comparison – a mentality of “we are so far from being ready to do that” can seriously demotivate.  

3 The challenge of getting good stories out

Trying to get consistency in strategy between local and global is one thing, but making a case for showing impact and getting good stories out of different regions can present different challenges. This can be because of the distance between offices, varying workloads, and the understanding of how important stories are. Nevertheless, human impact stories are crucial in keeping the causes relevant to the workforce, keeping employees across different regions engaged and proving your commitment to stakeholders.

The group came up with a range of practical but powerful solutions that can work as standalone initiatives, but are even more effective when applied together.

Build frameworks

Frameworks improve people’s ability to make informed decisions. A good CSR framework connects to the business purpose and objectives and keeps the focus on a few key issues, while allowing local offices to add in their own issue. This facilitates action within a clearly defined playing field, enabling local creativity to play out.

Build a core business story

Never take for granted that colleagues appreciate the value that an impactful community responsibility programme can achieve and the value of aligning that strategy to the businesses core purpose. As one participant said, ‘we’re a home improvement retailer, so our CSR is about making life in homes and communities better’. This story connects CSR to the core business purpose in a simple way, making it easier to engage people – no matter their role in the business.

Hold Away Days

Invite regional heads of CSR, or the equivalent, to away days where you can share updates and learnings to take back into their part of the business. This not only invites everyone involved to be a real part of the change, it can help build a sense of community and re-engage the different offices and leaders involved in the CSR strategy.

Set up champion/ambassador networks

If you can’t physically meet with people across different regions on a regular basis, why not have a network of ambassadors who champion your objectives? This helps with having consistent communication and a unified voice across the different sites.

Implement a global reporting mechanism

People are inspired to join a movement when they know it is an effective one. If every office is able to report their results, this can be a vital engagement tool for employees.

Offer incentives for best impact story

To create a consistent culture of storytelling across your different offices, why not incentivise people to share their local impact stories? If the budget allows, you can offer them gift vouchers, discounted gym memberships, or a donation to one of the causes they care about.

Integrate CSR roles/responsibilities into all global offices

This helps make CSR part of the key priorities for local offices, (eg X communities supported by each office) and a key objective as part of peoples’ roles, (eg X hrs of volunteering time for team leaders) rather than an after thought.

Recognise that people aren’t experts in this field

So why not share best practice and give guidance to your counterparts?

A success story: AB inBev and decentralisation

In 2015, AB InBev launched the Global Smart Drinking Goals to reduce harmful use of alcohol by 10%.

The brewer has been rolling out several City Pilots, focussing its efforts on six cities where they can potentially make the most impact- Leuven, Belgium; Johannesburg, South Africa; Brasília, Brazil; Jiangshan, China; Zacatecas, Mexico; and Columbus, Ohio, USA.

To make this happen, the company has established an approach of decentralisation.

Although the global company has a centralised vision and targets, decentralisation plays a key part with local offices having their own remit on how they carry that out that vision, based on what makes sense to the local context.

Each region has a steering committee that consists of local stakeholders, including government, universities and non-governmental organisations. All these players are vital to the success of the pilots due to their unique local knowledge and ability to coordinate partners locally.

Due to AB inBev’s decentralisation approach, each area is able to identify and take ownership of how the company can better serve the local community that they operate in.

If you are interested in exploring any of the themes from the session in more detail, then we would love to hear from you.