Tristram Clayton: Setting an example - corporate social responsibility

By Tristram Clayton

NZME Herald Focus news presenter Tristram Clayton in his role of spokesman for Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand talks about corporate social responsibility.
Rotorua mother Philly Angus has her head shaved for the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand's Shave for a Cure campaign. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post
Rotorua mother Philly Angus has her head shaved for the Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand's Shave for a Cure campaign. Photo / Rotorua Daily Post

While many organisations talk about corporate social responsibility, few live and breathe it quite as whole-heartedly as Farmers.

The retail company's eight year relationship with Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand exemplifies what corporate social responsibility can, and should, look like when it's done for the genuine benefit of both organisations.

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It's estimated 40,000 people pass the window of Farmers Auckland CBD Store on the corner of Queen and Victoria Streets every day, making it one of the country's most valued pieces of commercial real estate.

But at the beginning of April, the department store will hand over their prime shop front to Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) - and won't expect anything in return.

For the fourth year in a row Farmers will be supporting the charity's Shave for a Cure campaign by holding 22 in-store 'Shaves' around the country, selling merchandise and seeking donations from customers over the campaign period.

Farmers CEO Rod McDermott says supporting Shave for a Cure is a powerful way for Farmers' staff and customers to demonstrate their solidarity with people living with a blood cancer.

"I think what the 'Shave' campaign represents is the opportunity for Farmers' store teams and customers to come together at an event that's very public and very open."

"Farmers has had a number of staff who have been affected, or whose families have been affected, by leukaemia and other blood cancers, so there is a real heartfelt connection."

We get a lot feedback from patients and their families about the amazing reception they get in the stores and how grateful they are for the hard work the employees put into the campaign.

LBC's CEO Pru Etcheverry says the level of commitment shown by Farmers' stores is both inspiring and humbling.

"It's authentic engagement and when you have that, things flow. We get a lot feedback from patients and their families about the amazing reception they get in the stores and how grateful they are for the hard work the employees put into the campaign."

The two organisations began working together eight years ago and have quickly cemented themselves as one of New Zealand's most productive and enduring corporate-charity relationships - an inspiring example of genuine corporate social responsibility.

In addition to supporting Shave for a Cure, Farmers also support LBC via corporate philanthropy and run an in-store campaign over Queen's Birthday Weekend - Life Changing Small Change which raised close to $180,000 in 2015.

Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand spokesman Tristram Clayton. Photo / Greg Bowker
Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand spokesman Tristram Clayton. Photo / Greg Bowker

These campaigns raise huge awareness of LBC's work and the blood cancers and related conditions they support. Farmers' customers & staff have raised $350,000 for Shave for a Cure over the last three years and this doesn't include the personal fundraising efforts of hundreds of staff and customers.

"Once it got established and everybody could see how it worked, we didn't have to issue any more ideas or directives. It got a momentum of its own and that's what I find really so positive. It's not a matter of us telling the teams what they have to do. Stores get a tool kit on what a good shave event can look like and the store teams pick it up and run with it," says Rod McDermott.

McDermott says the reason the event works so well is strongly connected to the department store's New Zealand history and locations across New Zealand.

"Farmers are a New Zealand owned and operated company. We have 60 stores around the country and are in most regional centres and cities. We are a store but our teams live and work in communities throughout the country. Shave really is a way of participating in the community and that's why it's so successful. Our teams are genuinely committed."

It's a really good feeling because it's part of your job. You get to go to work in the morning and know that you're going to part of something that means something and helps a lot of people.

For Heidi Lindley from Farmers Northlands store in Christchurch the event is the perfect opportunity for those who've always wanted to get involved with a charity, but never knew how.

"It's a really good feeling because it's part of your job. You get to go to work in the morning and know that you're going to part of something that means something and helps a lot of people."

McDermott says the event also plays an important role in team-building and is a way for Farmers to work in communities.

"It's good for the teams in the stores to work together on something apart from shop-keeping. Of course they are very accustomed to working with customers, so they don't find it difficult to have some fun or to stage an event. There's a huge amount of humour and participation at these events, so even though it's about raising money and awareness for a difficult circumstance, it's actually a lot of fun."

"What's encouraging to me is the way the events keep growing. More and more stores are getting involved and the events at stores that got involved early are getting bigger."

Farmers Northlands Manager Brent Richards agrees the event is good for staff morale and motivation.

Fundraising for the community is not only about how much money is raised. It's also about the consistency and predictability of the giving and the donations. If you get an amount of money once, that's fine, but what are you going to do next year?

"The team love knowing how much they've raised. It really drives everyone. We thrive off all the excitement. It also brings us all together and makes us focus on one thing. It's great to be passionate about something and to actually care."

McDermott says he's looking forward to the launch of this year's Shave in the brand new Farmers Auckland CBD Store. He's also confident that the strong relationship the two organisations have created will last for the long haul.

"Fundraising for the community is not only about how much money is raised. It's also about the consistency and predictability of the giving and the donations. If you get an amount of money once, that's fine, but what are you going to do next year? What we've got is a relationship that is enduring so LBC is able to make plans because of that."

For Pru Etcheverry and LBC, that sort of commitment is worth its weight in gold. It gives the charity certainty around its funding of 133 blood cancer education and support groups around the country.

It also means LBC is able to continue funding new projects such as the Support and Wellbeing Room at Auckland Hospital and the ground-breaking Research Unit and the University of Auckland.

"What Farmers does for us is massive. It means we can confidently extent our research and help answer the key question patients have which is 'How did I get this disease.' In doing that we can then develop targeted treatments."

"It's really hard yakka raising money out there and the boost Farmers gives us is monumental. We don't take it for granted. And it's not just the money. Offering the use of the Queen St shop front, the jewel in the Farmers crown, is an amazing gift. To offer that is pretty solid belief in what we are doing."

- NZ Herald

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