The BACS Living Award evaluation on the Empty Cardboard Box 2016-17

The ‘Empty Cardboard Box Award’

The Awards work as an independent evaluation process capturing activity that is acknowledged by communities as being great CSR initiatives, rather than business promotions.

 The BACS Good Business Egg Awards

The BACS Good Business Egg (GBE) Awards take businesses nominated by community organisations, and identifies who is fulfilling expectations on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and impacting New Zealand society in a positive way.

The Awards work as an independent evaluation process capturing activity that is acknowledged by communities as being great CSR initiatives, rather than business promotions.  This process identifies what is considered successful by community standards of CSR in New Zealand, providing real, grassroots commentary on the complex nature of CSR. 

Businesses are categorised into three areas: Education and Skills; Community Empowerment; and Health and Wellbeing.

What we are looking for in a ‘Good Business Egg’:

  1. A good commitment by the business to social responsibility without it being a ‘branding exercise only.’
  2. Report (with significant NZ details) on the business community investment/ involvement.
  3. Sharing of resources and skills; that may include hosting events, mentoring, collections of monies, business donations, skill sharing.
  4. Clear evidence of CSR within the business and appropriate reporting.
  5. Listening and working with community organisations to achieve shared outcomes.
  6. Messaging their community involvement/ investment well.
  7. Awareness by the business of the social impact in what they are doing.

BACS sees limited value in presenting a plaque that provides a pat on the back for good CSR work, then creates a dust hazard.  By presenting an award with an ‘onwards challenge’ it encourages businesses to expand and take action on their vision for society.  It is a unique opportunity to challenge recipients, who partner with a community organisation to tackle a social issue with a creative response.

Our Tikanga

SHARING: We encourage our members to share with each other.  Business has resources and tools they can share.  Community can share their rich resource of community knowledge and wisdom.   Our events and website maintain the need to connect and share between us.

The BACS Living Award 2015 was one of ‘sharing’.  We presented an opportunity for the three winners to partner with Department of Conservation to care for a kokako, an endangered native bird.  Three birds were gifted a name by The Warehouse, Deloitte and Fonterra and tracked with visits to the Waitakere Ranges.

TRUST: One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is our trust.  The Empty Cardboard Box Award 2016 was presented to KPMG, Contact Energy and Countdown.  Community leaders believed these businesses could be trusted to fill the replenishable and recyclable box  in useful and meaningful ways for the Women’s Refuge.

COMPASSION: This year, we presented the BACS Pile of Bricks Award that challenged recipients Countdown, ANZ and The Warehouse to partner with the community organisations Barnardos, Vincents Art Workshop and Parkinson’s New Zealand to address the effects of loneliness, experienced in all parts of society.  This project is currently progressing and we have asked the contributors to return in 2018 to tell us: What did you do? What did you learn? What difference did you make?

The 2016 BACS Living Awards were presented to Countdown for Health and Wellbeing, KPMG for Education and Skills, and Contact Energy for Community Empowerment.  BACS then set down the ‘Empty Cardboard Box Challenge’ to these recipients…literally handing them a cardboard box and asking them to “fill the empty cardboard box in a way that would support and assist their community partner.”  The Women’s Refuge was named as the partner with whom all three recipients would collaborate.

What Happened?

While BACS facilitated introductions between organisations and offered guidance and support, they were purposely not prescriptive in how partnerships were formed and managed, and what the outcomes should be.  This meant ‘the sky was the limit’ when participants began to work through the possibilities they could achieve together.  It also gave room for organisations to make mistakes and learn from them.   How organisations tackled the challenge and the outcomes delivered was both diverse and inspiring.

Energy Deal

Contact Energy worked with Women’s Refuge National Office to identify a worthwhile project.  The outcome was individual power contracts being negotiated for each of the 50 independent Women’s Refuge Centres around the country.  These contracts give the Centres access to heavily discounted prices available to very few organisations, and will significantly reduce ongoing power costs.

Boxes Filled with Goods

With the intention of making the project relevant and relatable to staff, Countdown stores located close to Women’s Refuge homes were asked by National Office to imagine leaving home at short notice.  “What would you need if you left home in a hurry?”   Dozens of stores around the country took up the challenge and staff filled boxes with items they felt would be appreciated.  By the time the project was done they had delivered 35 boxes to local Women’s Refuge Centres filled with new and second-hand items.

Cost to Serve Model

KPMG worked closely with Women’s Refuge to identify a project that was relevant and achievable.  The work took longer than anticipated and the 300 hours worked had a pro bono value of $43,000.  The outcome was a practical and valuable tool that Women’s Refuge is already using in advertising, funding applications and partnership deals to specify the cost of an individual or family placement per night.

Vouchers and Cash

In addition to outcomes achieved, $20,000 cash and $1,000 worth of vouchers was donated to Women’s Refuge to use as they saw fit.

Family Violence Policy and Training

In line with the partnership model of the BACS Living Awards, Women’s Refuge offered their expertise in return, to the businesses they partnered with.  They reviewed Countdown’s Family Violence Policy that launched in 2016, and are working with Contact Energy on Family Violence policy and training.  The businesses see this as a valuable contribution from their community partner.

Great Internal Impacts

BACS asked Kate Misa of Plan Zed to assess the results and the process of how all organisations managed this unusual award. Kate interviewed two of the business winners; Countdown and KPMG as well as the Women’s Refuge.

In addition to the tangible outcomes achieved throughout the challenge there were significant intangible impacts.  These work and social benefits were felt on both sides of the partnerships, and were a reminder that organisations should not underestimate the value of CSR in terms of team building, networking, boosting morale and upskilling staff.

 Staff Morale and Satisfaction

All organisations found challenges in the project, but they all also said the experience was positive overall.  “At the end of the day you couldn’t argue with the fact that you were helping an organisation do great things for your community” (KPMG).  That feel good factor was felt by a few or a lot, depending on how each organisation went about communicating and engaging their staff in the challenge.


Women’s Refuge is used to working in a partnership model with businesses and placed great value on collaborating to address real and significant needs within the organisation.   They were thrilled and highly appreciative of the amount of time put in by businesses who delivered practical outcomes that could not have achieved on their own.  It also gave their managers structure and skills that will assist them to manage their centre.

 Experience and Training

KPMG valued the experience as a training project for junior staff and also said their skills-based contribution was the most satisfying and valuable volunteering experience they had undertaken.

Learning by Doing

A recent review of the Empty Cardboard Box Award made it clear that participation in the Awards resulted in some positive results for all organisations.  Also highlighted, were areas of tension and challenge around participating in the Awards, and opportunities for increasing their value and relevance in the future.

Relevance and Resource

While all participants ‘signed up’ to the challenge enthusiastically, finding resource and applying structure to the process was not an easy task.   Gaining support from senior management and finding a niche for this activity in organisations with existing heavy workloads was a challenge for all participants.  Some projects were delegated and reassigned as resource dried up in certain areas, which meant the message and intent of the Challenge became watered down over time.

BACS acknowledge suggestions made by participants that aligning community organisations with a business with corresponding CSR strategies would assist them to allocate resource and gain support.  Being in the same location would also help businesses reduce travel costs and time.  Both these factors would help organisations maintain and grow the connections, meaning ongoing positive impacts for all participants.

Project Management

As with any project, identifying objectives, scoping and assigning resource was important for participants.  An absence of management oversight in some cases meant activity was not well scoped or guided by experienced senior managers and activity became resource-intensive or a bit off-the-mark.   All recipients said they would start earlier and plan more if the opportunity arose again.

Missed Opportunities

CSR is always a partnership.  The businesses who worked closely with Women’s Refuge to identify issues and practical solutions were more satisfied with the experience.  Those who didn’t, completed the challenge unsure whether their effort was valued.  The strength of the collaboration also contributed to whether the relationship would endure long term.

Participants did not necessarily recognise or value the intangible benefits associated with CSR and therefore did not make the most of the experience.   One organisation did a stellar job of engaging staff who felt invested in the project and genuinely cared about the Women’s Refuge cause.  Staff received support and communication from their National Office, and team spirit was built with a Facebook page that allowed them to share their activity.  In other organisations a handful of people were involved and success was not shared widely.  This was a lost opportunity for more staff to feel good about the organisation they work for and the social investment being made by the company on their behalf.

Acknowledging and Supporting Success

Presentations made at the Awards evening were intended to highlight and celebrate success achieved by the partnerships.  However, there was temptation for participants to compare outcomes.  Much of the success, particularly intangible impacts, wasn’t highlighted in presentations and could not be recognised or acknowledged by those who were not directly involved.

 Always Opportunities to Improve

Learning from each year is important for all.  Even participants who felt negative about some aspects of the challenge learnt from the experience and will be able to use those experiences to improve their business and community partnerships in the future.

BACS is committed to continuous review and improvement of the BACS Living Awards to ensure the value of the experience is maximised for participants.  The 2017 winners have already taken on previous learnings for the Pile of Bricks Award.  The community partners began by meeting to decide what outcomes would be beneficial and how they could work together, before meeting with the Award recipients to determine what was possible and cost effective.

We know that differences in organisational culture and skillset sometimes make community and business partnerships challenging.  At the end of the day, it all boils down to communication.  If it’s not working well, communicate!  If it is working well, communicate!  And always remember the intent of a partnership is most likely good even if the delivery has opportunity for improvement.

Looking Forward

BACS is proud of their Good Business Egg Awards and Living Award Challenges.  People enjoy their fun and quirky nature, and find them a great conversation starter regarding community collaboration and partnership.  The Awards hold a unique place within the CSR landscape of New Zealand and will continue to evolve as a way to stimulate thought and action.

We are also very proud of all the participants who dived into this challenge head first and gave it their all.  We acknowledge how hard it is to fit in ‘one more piece of work’ during the year, and to muster support and enthusiasm from senior management and staff.  With more time, resource and a bit of hindsight, you might have tackled things differently.  However, we believe all the outcomes are relevant and valuable, and more importantly, all the learning is relevant and valuable.

We have taken on board a number of things that will help participants commit to future BACS Living Award challenges and look forward to more out-of-the-box solutions sparked by these community and business collaborations.