ProBono Australia – Maggie Coggan

November proved to be a big month for both the impact investing, and corporate and workplace giving sectors, with their annual awards nights shining a spotlight on the excellence and growth of the sectors.  

Workplace giving – Some of the country’s biggest companies across business, education and service took home the top accolades at the Workplace Giving Excellence Awards night, held in Sydney on 14 November. 

Law firm, King & Wood Mallesons, was awarded best workplace giving program, with its “DigDep” initiative that has seen nearly 50 per cent of staff become involved in payroll giving and 85 per cent involved in pro bono and volunteering work. 

Since the program started back in 2001, the law firm has donated over $12.5 million to its charity partners, which include the Aboriginal Legal Service, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, and Launch Housing.    

EnergyAustralia was awarded gold for the best launch and refresh category for its leadership and board team commitment to donate 1 per cent from their pay and a dollar-for-dollar matching scheme. This has resulted in the company achieving a staff giving participation rate of 63 per cent since the start of the year, and more than $350,000 donated to charity partners. 

Other award winners of the night included JB Hi-Fi for “most unique innovation”, and Rural Aid and Australia Post which were awarded gold for the most innovative charity and employer partnership, which involved payroll giving, a Buy-a-Bale Christmas appeal, a special stamp pack (with $2 from each pack sold going to Buy-a-Bale) and a public hay drop event. 

Chair of the judging panel, QUT’s Associate Professor Wendy Scaife said she commended all organisations that offered its employees the chance to engage in workplace giving, and that the award winners this year were standout cases.   

“Their programs had leadership support, were part of the organisation’s culture and were highly supported and loved by their staff,” Scaife said. 

Jenny Geddes, CEO at Workplace Giving Australia, urged all business leaders to adopt a workplace giving program. 

“Employees embrace these programs, they build culture and they provide much needed funding for charities – it’s a win win for everyone,” Geddes said. 

Impact investing  

This year’s annual awards night – also held on 14 November – saw some of Australia’s largest impact investing players receive accolades for their achievements over the past year. 

A collaboration between the Impact Investment Summit Asia Pacific and the Impact Investing Hub, the 2019 awards were judged by a panel of experts comprised of Abhilash Mudaliar, (Global Impact Investing Network and Paul Ramsay Foundation), Rosemary Addis (executive director of Impact Strategist ) and Teena Blewitt (group manager, Communities Group, Department of Social Services). 

The big award of the night, impact asset owner of the year, was taken home by HESTA, which allocated a further $40 million to fund investments across health, housing and community services through its Social Impact Investment Trust. 

The superfund’s investment mandate with Social Ventures Australia was a first in Australia, paving the way for other super funds to do the same.  

Kilter Rural took home the award for impact asset manager of the year for its investment in farmland, water and ecosystem services, managing a portfolio of more than $440 million. 

Impact market builder of the year was awarded to Pacific Trade Invest Australia for supporting private sector growth in the Pacific Islands, and GOTERRA and Nightingale Housing won impact entrepreneur of the year for its work targeting food waste and methane emissions, and housing affordability.

Jessica Roth said on behalf of the Impact Investing Hub she was thrilled by the large pool of nominations the awards received, demonstrating the growth of the movement. 

“It just demonstrates how much the impact investing ecosystem is continuing to develop and how many remarkable people and organisations are contributing to the future of a transformed economy,” Roth said.