For years, corporate philanthropy got a bad rap. At best, it was seen as a tool for buying goodwill in communities, at worst a smokescreen for deflecting negative attention. From gala sponsorships to confetti-speckled grants, the word philanthropy became synonymous with purpose washing. So much so that companies moved away from it – even the Committee for Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy expelled the word from their name in 2019 to become Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose.

But corporate philanthropy is back. And the good news? It’s finding more purposeful footing.

We’ve seen corporation after corporation use philanthropy as a first line of response to the global upheaval of the last several years– from Covid-19 to the murder of George Floyd to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Companies have made major commitments, built signature initiatives, and forged bold new partnerships at a frenzied pace. According to Giving USA, corporations in the U.S. gave $21 billion in 2021, a 24% increase from 2020.

At APCO, we were curious about how strategic and valuable these initiatives – and the companies behind – them really are. We interviewed dozens of corporate and corporate foundation leaders, to draw on their insights and better understand their structures and incentives. Our goal was to determine the most optimal use of corporate philanthropy. What we learned was this: it is a uniquely positioned form of capital to accelerate a company’s impact and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) journey – but it is woefully underutilized for that purpose.

After months of research and conversation, we have identified at least four opportunities for corporate philanthropy to be used as a key tool in the ESG arsenal. Touching on everything from Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to governance to branding, the following insights are derived from learning from what has worked, fine-tuning what hasn’t and envisioning what few have yet to try.

  1. Build thriving communities
  2. Drive innovation and learning
  3. Use philanthropic partnerships to accelerate DEI (and real belonging)
  4. Learn about long-term measurement

Read the full article about corporate philanthropy by Denielle Sachs at Forbes.