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Case Study - From little things, big things grow : Utilising e-commerce to drive a CSR strategy

AUSTRALIA | Tuesday, 20 January 2009 | Views [3454]

Tackling CSR - Corporate Social Responsibility

One of the most challenging things a company can face is how to decide what form their CSR strategy might take.

Do we take a holistic approach and look at all of the potential pillars in terms of our social, ethical and environmental impact? Do we bite one off and square up our carbon impact? Do we get caught in the constant argument over how we should measure all of the above or do we just bite the bullet and do something?

We bit the bullet.

WorldNomads.com is a travel company, a technology company and a community of like-minded travellers. We operate online and we support our travellers on a number of fronts but principally by providing them with global travel insurance and travel safety services and products.

We’re also acutely aware that our World Nomads travel to some of the poorest countries in the world and yet receive such warm hospitality from less fortunate people.

The Tsunami in 2004 brought into harsh focus the need for WorldNomads.com to support developing and impoverished countries. So how could we combine our knowledge of online technology, our customers desire to give back and support worthwhile initiatives being undertaken, on the ground, in those countries?

The following is a case study of how we chose to utilise technology to drive our CSR strategy and a call to action to get involved. (Apologies if it sounds a little pitchy...it is!)

What is Footprints?

Footprints is the ‘glue’ between individual donors and charitable projects. Every time a World Nomad purchases travel insurance, they can choose to donate between $2-$10 to a community development project being run by one of our charity partners.

Footprints uses web technologies to facilitate economic efficiencies across thousands of tiny transactions. We felt that by positioning this donation at point of sale, making it less than a cup of coffee, that we’d be able to garner support from our community minded travellers.

Footprints is a sophisticated online reporting system covering multiple currencies, time-zones, businesses and projects; it is truly global in its scope and it runs 24/7.

By working with our charity partners to provide discreet projects, with fixed budgets and determined outcomes, we’d be able to provide far greater transparency. Our World Nomads could see exactly where their $2 was going and we’d be able to report back to them exactly what was achieved. With Footprints passing on 100% of the funds raised, we were confident that our WorldNomad.com community would support this initiative.

What has Footprints achieved?

With over 90% of World Nomads choosing to donate, Footprints has raised almost $600,000 from more than 180,000+ individual donations.

It has funded community projects in 18 countries including:

• Provided 300 sight-saving surgeries
• Built one primary school, repaired another & trained over 200 teachers
• Gave a whole village solar-lighting
• Installed water & sanitation in 3 schools and 3 villages
• Provided medicine to 3 communities and 4 orphanages
• Helped 40 vulnerable kids get through school
• Created kitchen gardens, buy egg-laying chickens, provided meals

Footprints has also spawned a documentary series currently screening on Nat Geo Adventure channel.

Why do we do this?

We all know the world is awash with poverty, injustice, intolerance and insecurity, but we believe everyone has a moral responsibility to do something about it. Footprints is our contribution.

We can’t be the only ones

One of the great things about working with a bunch of social philanthropists and web technologists is they get restless, “It’s worked for World Nomads, so why can’t it work for another company? How do we make it happen?”.

So was born the Footprints Network. The Footprints Network is an alliance of like-minded e-commerce businesses and their customers who fund community projects that improve the quality of life for those living in impoverished communities.

We’ve re-engineered the technology as a web service (API) that enables any business that is transacting online, to integrate Footprints into their purchase path and start funding projects.

What's in it for business?

Online customers are smart and they care about the ethics and values of the companies from which they purchase. So we wanted to provide a solution that other businesses could utilise, one that provided

A ready-made CSR program

Although the projects we support are primarily community and social development ones, as the Network grows, so will our capacity grow to fund environmental projects.

No up front cost to join

This is not a profit mechanism for Footprints. World Nomads investment in running and maintaining the program is our CSR investment.

A means to connects with customers, at and beyond the sale!

It might be less than a cup of coffee, but when you show a customer the difference their donation has made, when they can see it, you’ve made a connection far beyond the sale.

Companies with the option to support projects important to them and their community, at varying donation rates.

As long as the projects meet the Footprints guidelines, a network partner can choose to fund either projects from the pool, or ones of their own. Imagine if iTunes became a partner, something as simple as a 1 cent donation would have yielded over 50 million dollars since they went live.

A mechanism to positively position their brand and fosters word of mouth

I want our World Nomads to be proud of what they’ve achieved through Footprints and yes, if they tell their friends and they buy our travel insurance, or your product and donate, even better. We can only sustain our CSR initiatives whilst we sustain our businesses at the same time.

A tipping point for consumers.

Although it was not our intention when we set out, we saw an immediate increase in our conversion rate. Outside of price, Footprints is the number 1 reason why our customers choose buy through World Nomads.

A way to build and foster business relationships

Be it charity partners, media partners, network partners, Footprints has enabled us to share a common value. It’s enabled us to work with people who are passionate about the difference they can make and excited by the ability to involve their community.

Improves employee attraction, retention and motivation

It is common knowledge that these days prospective employees care more than just about the salary when choosing which company to work for. I love the fact that our last three World Nomads hires chose to apply on their desire to want to be involved in Footprints.

We've learnt that by providing the tools for consumers to contribute, particularly when they're already purchasing and by maintaining transparency at all times, you can develop a level of engagement and impact on the ground, far and above expectation.

If you’re interested in joining the Footprints Network or want more information: Visit the website www.footprintsnetwork.org or email Christy McCarthy, Community Relations Manager at christy[at]footprintsnetwork.org

Chris Noble
General Manager
World Nomads.com

Tags: community development, corporate social responsibility, csr, footprints, footprints network, world nomads, worldnomads.com

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