Corporates for social impact: the Kering Foundation’s strategy to combat violence against women
In our interview with Céline Bonnaire, Executive Director of the Kering Corporate Foundation, we discuss the rationale underneath a philanthropic model able to align social change and business and highlight the Foundation’s perspectives and goals in Italy and abroad
26 September 2017
The Kering Corporate Foundation represents the philanthropic arm of Kering, global Luxury group that reunites brands as Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga.
In 2008 the company decided to restructure its philanthropic approach for the community creating the Foundation that operates to end violence against women mainly by implementing long-term partnerships with non profit players, supporting social entrepreneurship, and launching awareness campaigns.
We examine the strategy of the Foundation, its accomplishments and the planned initiatives for Italy and worldwide in our interview with Céline Bonnaire, Executive Director of the Kering Corporate Foundation.
What is the strategic model of the Kering Corporate Foundation and how did the Foundation define its mission and main target?
The Foundation was created in 2008 with the mission to combat violence against women, supported by the will of our Chairman and CEO François-Henri Pinault, who wanted the Group to get committed on a meaningful cause where we could have a real added value. Violence affects one woman out of three during her lifetime worldwide: furthermore, women represent 60% of Kering’s workforce and 80% of its customers. So this issue, besides being of the utmost relevance in social terms, was really something close to our values.
Violence against women is still a great taboo and was even more ten years ago: not many large organizations – and companies in particular – were addressing that kind of issue. Our conviction was that through the visibility and the fame of our brands we could cast a light on this topic, raising awareness and providing support to organizations to the benefit of women survivors. Now most companies are involved on some social issue but we chose to focus on a topic where we could really have an impact, both through the Foundation and with the corporation since, at a global level, Kering is engaged in empowering women: the initiative Women in motion, launched in 2015 in partnership with Festival de Cannes, to foster the role of women in the motion industry is just one example.
“Our CEO wanted the Group to get committed on a meaningful cause where we could have a real added value”
Which approach did the foundation choose to follow and how does it support social entrepreneurs, one of the main focuses of its action?
Our choice is to have a quite focused approach to get more impact for our final beneficiaries: we decided to concentrate on three main geographical areas (Americas, Western Europe, and Asia –mainly in China for the moment), i.e. the ones where we have employees since we are used to involve them but also because it means we can have a better knowledge and understanding of the local context. Beside the geographical criteria, we follow three main type of action:
- Support to local NGOs, with a minimum of three years partnerships, that provide services to women victims of violence
- Direct initiatives to raise awareness on the topic of violence against women
- Social Entrepreneurs Awards: we think social entrepreneurship is really an innovative way to find solutions in a sustainable logic. Some topics and issues need and will need support from donors and the welfare state but it is interesting when possible to follow an economic approach to identify new courses of action to solve social problems.
Social entrepreneurs generally borrow the language of the social sector, in light of their mission, but also speak the business language. For us they represent the ideal mid-way between a corporation and the non-profit sector: their approach is often more innovative. As a matter of fact, each time we choose to support a social entrepreneur, we invest time to discuss and identify their needs in terms of development and skills. We find the most fitting person among our employees to become a mentor to share knowledge and tools.
“Social entrepreneurs represent the ideal mid way between a corporation and the non profit sector”
How is the Kering Corporate Foundation’s model positioned within the Kering Group’s strategy to create social impact for the community in terms, for example, of employees engagement?
Ours is a global commitment at empowering women and even before the creation of the foundation we had programs involving the employees.
Three years ago, the Kering Volunteering Program was created and, as an employee, you have two way of getting committed: first, you can go on “solidarity leave”, a two week mission in the field to support vetted non profit partners, with the Kering Foundation covering all costs apart from 50% of travel. The Group also grants two to four additional days to the period the employee takes for the solidarity leave.
The second possibility is to work pro-bono, sharing skills and building the capacity of our non-profit partners, on a more local base, with up to 6 days covered by the company.
Which are the main initiatives implemented by the Foundation and the most remarkable results achieved?
I think that our first great result is the approach we managed to implement, that envisions a long-time relationship with our partners and allows us to building a positive collaboration – whereby periodically we discuss needs and try to find solutions together. This is in our opinion the best way to work with NGOs.
One of the things I am very proud of is the training program we implemented for employees on domestic violence. It started by looking at statistics: in France one woman out of ten suffers from domestic abuse, in Italy one out of three, in the UK one out of four. This means that within our company there are probably women suffering from this form of abuse. And we felt it was our responsibility to provide a supportive working environment – so if one of our employees chooses to disclose this condition difficulties, we need to have the right mindset to listen and understand and know how to provide support by connecting her to the right organization. In Italy for example, we partnered in 2013 with Donne in Rete contro la Violenza (DIRE), to deliver workshops to our employees on how to identify domestic abuse and build a supportive working environment. Following the experience in France with the Fédération Nationale Solidarité Femmes (FNSF), this training was then implemented also in the UK and the US.
“I think that our first great result is the approach we managed to implement that envisions a long-time relationship with our partners and allows us to building a positive collaboration. This is in our opinion the best way to work with NGOs”
What are the next steps for the Kering Corporate Foundation and how does Italy figure in the overall plan?
Italy is one of our three key countries in Europe, with France and UK, and we have lots of Italian employees within our brands. We recently launched our annual Social Entrepreneurship Award, for the first time also in Italy, working internationally with the network MakeSense. We are having a call for proposal (deadline for application: September 30th): at the end we will select one social entrepreneur per Country and these social entrepreneurs will receive a grant, the mentorship from one of our employees, and also a six months accelerator program with MakeSense.
Secondly, at the end of November, on the occasion of the “International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women”, we will run our annual White Ribbon For Women Campaign: last year we distributed 230,000 badges and stickers to customers and employees and managed an online campaign that reached 1,1 billion views worldwide. We’re working on the new campaign that this year will target Generation Z to foster a cultural change among the youngest generation and we are working on a fitting concept to engage this target.
Finally, we will keep on running our initiatives worldwide: in Italy we are scouting for a suitable project, we want to find innovative solutions and tackle the issue of refugees women victims of violence. We are currently screening projects in this specific area: we are already performing such initiatives abroad and we think this would be a very important area of focus for Italy which, more and more, is becoming a destination country and not only a transfer country. I hope we will find the right partner before the end of the year.
Discover more and meet the Kering Foundation at the 2017 Lang Philanthropy Day
For further information http://www.keringfoundation.org/