Evaluation is frequently used in civil society organisations and national and international public organisations in order to judge their programme and project performance and results. Evaluation also plays an increasingly important role in informing changes in strategy or policy, where evaluation is an active ‘lever’ of change and influence, and not just accountability.
In contrast, until recently the corporate sector and their philanthropic foundations have not been significant users of evaluation (at least publicly), but this appears to be changing. There is an emergent interest in evaluation as process that can help corporates improve the performance of their social responsibility and charitable programmes. In 2015, CAD was given the opportunity by C&A Foundation to evaluate the C&A “Store Giving Programme” (funded by the Foundation and implemented by the C&A business in its European business). CAD’s evaluation team visited seven European countries and conducted 121 interviews with C&A employees, beneficiary organisations that had received donations from C&A and direct beneficiaries of the programmes. The information collected allowed an in-depth analysis to be carried out resulting in a series of conclusions and recommendations. These were explicitly aimed at informing the Store Giving Programme strategy to focus it on generating greater impact among beneficiary organizations, populations they serve and the C&A business through employee engagement.
The work performed over a period of 6 months has resulted in an extremely valuable learning process for CAD. Currently there are different trends taking place in private companies that are involved in social development:
a) The corporate sector are now showing a real interest in generating impact in the community through their social programmes. Therefore, they are committing more resources (both human and financial) to manage the type of social organisations they are funding and the results that they are achieving through them. This is resulting in them transforming their charitable programmes into development programmes, which usually involve the creation of strategic partnerships with community players such as NGO’s, associations, governments or other foundations to ensure sustainability.
b) Companies are interested in measuring their social and environmental results, helping them improve the quality of communication to both their employees and the public. On one hand, the consumer is demanding more information about the origin of the product in order to know if it is produced in a sustainable and socially responsible way, while on the other, employees have a greater interest in being informed about the results in supply-chain and/or their company’s development or charitable programmes. In short, evaluation can assist corporate transparency efforts.
c) The employee’s desire for involvement and participation in the social programmes that are funded by their company is also addressed. Strategic partnerships between private companies and social organisations like NGOs and foundations represent an opportunity to create volunteer programmes that not only generate social impact but also increase employee’s engagement.
The evaluation of the “Store Giving Programme” of the C&A Foundation highlights the opportunity that private companies have to incorporate results- based development programmes into their social activity and to develop strategic and innovative partnerships with other development players. In this way, social programmes of private companies can generate greater impact and better evidence-based communication for consumers, employees and the general public.
Author: Sofia Guillot collaborates with GlobalCAD team since September 2014. She is based in Barcelona working as a senior consultant in areas linked to Evaluation and partnerships. She has a broad international experience in development issues in Latin America and Europe and she is interested in promoting social and environmental responsibility in the private sector.
Photo: João Pedro Barbosa