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Canada’s leading corporations widely recognize the business opportunity in putting their brands and resources behind worthy causes, according to the 2017 Corporate Community Investment Leadership study issued by Imagine Canada and LBG (London Benchmarking Group) Canada.

The 56 companies in the study invested $468-million in communities in 2016. Forty-four per cent indicated their community investments would increase in the next 12 months while 26 per cent predicted a decrease.

The study found that many corporations linked community investment with innovation, with almost 60 per cent reporting community investment activities in at least one key area of the Federal Government Innovation Plan. Education-related community projects were the most common innovation focus.

In 2016, companies in the study reported 1.8 million hours of employee time volunteered with an average of 31 hours per employee. Of reported hours, 13 per cent occurred during working hours at an estimated value of $8.24-million.

Companies are leveraging long-term partnerships with charities and community organizations, with 87 per cent reporting multi-year projects within their giving strategy.

Community footprints are also being deepened by regularly engaging stakeholders (employees, customers, suppliers and government partners) in community investment activities. Most companies (86 per cent) reported leveraging employee contributions as a part of their strategy.

“This report profiles Canada’s leaders in corporate community investment,” says Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada. “It’s a snapshot of approaches businesses of all sizes and levels of charitable giving can leverage for their community investment. Our hope is that the study is widely used by companies as they pursue their community aspirations.”

Companies participating in the study are Imagine Canada Caring Companies and the LBG Canada network of companies. Since 2007, companies within the LBG Canada network have invested more than $3-billion in their communities – more than $4-billion if employee and other stakeholder contributions are considered, according to Stephanie Robertson, president and CEO of SiMPACT Strategy Group and founder of LBG Canada.

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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