How We Engage with Local Communities
Across our global network we support around 150 community initiatives that are initiated by employees and leadership teams in our affiliates in response to local challenges. Many of the projects are aligned to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The SGS Code of Integrity and Group Community policy underscore our respect for the rights and interests of local communities. To further these objectives, we aim to:
- Support employees to engage in local initiatives that align with the MDGs and improve quality of life
- Help build capacity within non-profit agencies through financial, in-kind and volunteer contributions
- Strengthen our local and global communities through ethical business practices, programs and employee volunteering
- Support disaster relief and environmental sustainability by sharing our expertise and network with non-profit organizations
Senior managers within our affiliates are responsible for ensuring adherence to our Code of Integrity and Group Community policy and guidelines, and establishing appropriate programs. The CEO is ultimately responsible for the implementation of our Group Community policy and the Sustainability Steering Committee oversees implementation of social and environmental programs within the company.
Our core themes
During 2014, we revised our Community Policy and Guidelines to more closely align them to our strategic objective to increase our investment in communities by 30% by 2020, using a 2014 baseline. Following an assessment of the scope of community activities taking place across our affiliates, we identified three core themes for our community approach which are set out below:
- Education – includes projects aimed at improving access to elementary, primary, secondary, higher and further education, as well as informal education in the form of employment training schemes and skills workshops
- Empowerment – includes projects aimed at promoting the physical, emotional, intellectual and economic empowerment of women and men through access to healthcare, counseling, mentoring, enterprise schemes and micro credit
- Environmental Sustainability – includes projects aimed at reducing or eliminating reliance on non-renewable or scarce resources such as fossil fuels and water
Our community program is led by our affiliates through collaborations with local community organizations. Across our global network we support around 150 community initiatives that are initiated by employees and leadership teams in our affiliates in response to local challenges. Many of the projects are aligned to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
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The United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are eight goals committing UN Member States to work to combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women. The MDGs directly support the UN Millennium Declaration and are designed to be achieved by 2015.
Our core themes all align to the MDGs:
SGS Core Theme MDG Empowerment 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger 3: Promote gender equality and empower women 4: Reduce child mortality 5: Improve maternal health 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development Education 2: Achieve universal primary education Environmental Sustainability 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
Update on the MDGs
While significant progress has been achieved in the decade and a half of concerted action by UN Member States, many of the development challenges remain critical. The UN is working with governments, civil society and other partners to build on the momentum generated by the MDGs and carry on with an ambitious post-2015 development agenda. This universal agenda is expected to focus on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030 and deliver on the promise of sustainable development.
Community investment is led by our affiliates, with managing directors responsible for determining which projects to support. These contributions are supplemented by corporate sponsorships and donations to projects where SGS has a long-standing commitment to supporting change. Please see our 2014 Sustainability Review for an update on this and other global and local community projects.
Community investment is an important part of working for SGS for many employees around the world and we encourage employees to take part in community volunteering activities. In particular, we recognize that many employees value the opportunity to use and develop their professional and personal skills through team-based and individual volunteering activities. In 2014, 54% of the projects tracked in our annual community survey had enhanced employee engagement.
SGS wants to encourage and support local giving by matching funds donated at affiliate level, by corporate businesses, by functions and by individual employees. The SGS match funding scheme (effective from 2015) is designed to assist SGS affiliates and individual employees who invest in local community projects that meet our match funding criteria and which are aligned to our core community themes.
At SGS, we recognize we have many assets at our disposal that can benefit local community organizations. These include physical assets, such as offices and laboratory space or equipment, and intellectual property, in the form of our services and the skills and expertise of our people. Where practicable, we want to support organizations by offering our assets either free of charge or at a fee that is below our commercial rates. We also support local community organizations through the provision of in-kind giving.
Alongside the MDGs, we recognize the urgent need to remove carbon from the atmosphere and want to play our part in supporting communities to reduce or eliminate greenhouse gas emissions. As part of our decision to become carbon neutral, we are investing in microcredit projects aimed at reducing or eliminating carbon while improving the lives of low-income people in our local communities.
SGS supports community development in a number of direct and indirect ways. For example, in addition to our projects, we strive to recruit talent from local communities and procure as many services and commodities from local suppliers as possible. Many of our professional services are designed to help governments, institutions, businesses and non-governmental organizations meet society’s expectations at local, national and international levels.
Alongside our planned community activities, we offer immediate assistance in the aftermath of a disaster. Our support can range from offering cash donations through employee and company fundraising efforts, to employee volunteering and in-kind and pro-bono giving. Where possible and appropriate, SGS will work with our global community partner to coordinate effort on the ground. The scale of certain disasters means that SGS will be able to support relief efforts at a corporate as well as local level.
Performance is measured based on the number of projects globally, the level of company investment and the number of employee volunteering hours. In addition, our annual community survey measures the impacts of key projects. During 2014, we conducted an evaluation of 91 community projects in 27 countries. Of these, 10 involved SGS customers and six involved SGS suppliers.
The majority of our community projects focus on addressing issues linked to empowerment (including economic development, health, gender equality and alleviation from poverty and hunger), while other projects support education and environmental sustainability. During 2014, a small proportion (2%) of community projects were aimed at supporting disaster relief efforts following the extreme floods which affected the Balkans region in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia in May 2014. Just over half of our community projects in 2014 were supported through employee volunteering, while 37% benefited from cash sponsorship and 26% benefited from cash donations. A further 26% received in-kind donations and 11% received pro bono services from SGS.
Through our involvement in local programs, we aim to support communities by contributing to meaningful and measurable outcomes. We are currently working on a methodology that will enable us to accurately measure and assess our community impact. At the same time, we are also keen to understand the effects of our community investment on our employees and SGS as a company. While 15% of our projects were not considered by our internal stakeholders to have any direct positive impact on SGS, it is clear that many affiliates regard community investment as providing multiple benefits, particularly around improved reputation and local profile, and enhanced employee engagement and teamwork.
At present, the majority (56%) of our projects are short-term, one-off projects. However, our aim is to develop long-term, strategic partnerships with community organizations. Through the roll-out of our revised Community Policy and Guidelines in January 2015, which provide a framework for managing our community programs around our three core themes and the introduction of our matched funding scheme, we would expect the proportion of longer-term projects to increase.
Please see our 2014 Sustainability Review for case studies on our community involvement.