A little goes a long way...

Posted on May 30, 2012 by Jess

Coral Semmens is a mum of 2 with a passion for working with people, particularly women. As an independent cosmetics consultant, for Arbonne International, Coral loves to assist women to increase their self-esteem and self confidence by sharing knowledge and skills about make up & how to best use it.

Real Exchange recently connected Coral with a group of young women living in supported community housing. These women are facing all kinds of challenges in life but still have the same desires as most women to feel beautiful and attractive. After speaking with the program it became clear to Real Exchange that there could be a great opportunity for Coral to use her knowledge and skills to bring some love and care to these young women.

So Coral went and spent a couple of hours one afternoon with these young women assisting them with techniques for applying make up, with colour selection, as well as information & knowledge about the best, affordable brands to buy. Coral also spent time applying a full face of make up for each of the young women, who thoroughly enjoyed being pampered a little. One of the support workers for these young women commented to Real Exchange, “The afternoon gave the girls a good opportunity to learn skills they might not have been taught in the family home. It was also a good chance for the girls to bond and connect with each other.”

For Coral this was simply about giving back a little bit of the skills & knowledge she has to the community, in her words, “it was awesome and I would definitely like to do it again”. Real Exchange is now in the process of setting up similar connections for Coral.

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Posted on February 23, 2012 by Jess

I had almost forgotten until recently my first experience of a music film clip; I must have been 8 or 9, and my dad had the film clip for Julian Lennon’s ‘Saltwater’ on VHS. I remember being quite fascinated about this concept of a music video, why did you need a video to go with your song? However there was something more intriguing to me with this song than the video itself, this song resonated with me, which was strange. I was a little girl, growing up in a middle class country town in Australia, without understanding of either the depth, nor the tragedy and despair that was being sung about;

‘We’re so ingenious we can walk on the moon but when I hear about how the forest have died, saltwater wells in my eyes’
‘We’re so enchanted by how clever we are, why should one baby be so hungry she dies?’

‘Time is not a friend, cause friends we are out of time’

I don’t think I have ever listened to another Julian Lennon song, and it's been a long time since I'd heard 'Saltwater'; until two day.

While working on my computer with a random selection playing from my iTunes, ‘Saltwater’ began to play, I had not even realised that it was on my iTunes, and as it started it caused me to stop, and listen. Partially because it was one of those moments that takes you back to a pleasant childhood memory, to a time when the world, and life, seemed so much simpler (such good moments!) But more than the pleasant memory, I stopped as I started to reflect on the lyrics. Words written over 20 years ago now, words sung about pain and suffering in the world, about disappointment that human intelligence and resource was being used for plenty of things that to the writer did not matter as much as the plight of humanity and the environment. Words that, I believe, ring as true today as they did at the time they were written, and I wondered to myself; have things changed? Are things better? Are they worse? Do more people care? Do less people care? Does the world actually look any different?

Initially my answer to those questions went along the lines of, no things haven’t changed, things are not better, and many people still don’t care that much. However as I put those thoughts to paper (or a word doc as they case may be) I decided that better or worse, and more or less, are not helpful ways of thinking or recording humanities journey, they are too subjective and require too much generalisation, to be beneficial.

Some things are better, some are not but things are certainly different. People still suffer greatly throughout the world, not just in far away lands but also in our very own backyard, people suffer in the same ways they always have, and they suffer in new ways. Some people care a lot, some people care a little, some people don’t know how to care, and some don’t want to care because it’s easier not to.

So, when I look at the world today, and still see much the same, what would I say is different or has changed?

One of the most exciting differences for me is the increase in businesses who understand their responsibility and capapcity to engage with the challenges, and tackle injustices. I am spurred on because I see something in motion that has far reaching consequences and I think we should continue to demand, encourage and dream about what these could be.

Becoming a responsible business today looks like so many different things, it is not just about donations but about taking what a business has and finding ways to resource and empower local communities through partnerships, so that together we all move forward, steady and manageable, creating sustainability. You all know the story of the hare and the tortoise!

This is the revolution that is slowly shifting much of how our communities and society interact and live well together. What can be achieved in the next 20 years depends deeply on this, on those in business to challenge traditional values and those who consume to demand these things be considered.  

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CSR & return on investment

Posted on November 14, 2011 by Jess

Is corporate social responsibility solely about ‘good morals’ and ‘ethics’, or are there actually tangible returns on investment as well? Is it possible to actually measure the return on CSR programs? These are common questions when is comes to CSR, and why wouldn’t they be? At the end of the day we need the numbers to add up and we must make decisions that to the best of our knowledge are going to keep the business in the green, so of course these are important and regularly asked questions.

It is probably not going to surprise you to read that my answer to these questions is yes & no. What does this mean? Well yes, the effect of your CSR program can be measured, but no, it probably can not be measured as accurately as you would like, it is very difficult to measured to the extent that it will offer certainties about what you will get back if you were to invest ‘x’ amount of dollars.

I recently read a paper written by a professor at the business school of the University of California on exactly this topic, and I have quoted a section of her paper below because it got me thinking about this desire we have for exact measures for CSR; Innovation is hugely important in the corporate world, but no one is complaining that its effectiveness is nearly impossible to measure using traditional metrics. Yet when it comes to CSR, everyone wants to know the exact measurements — how big, how many, how often, for how long, how much impact, how many species, how many tons of this, how many kilograms of that. And they want the silver bullet study proving causality. But causality is nearly impossible to prove for many things that companies do routinely — like advertising, training and development, and branding. The relationship to these business strategies and business success is correlative, just as it is with CSR“

This got me thinking, if CSR is not more or less ‘measurable’ than other investments we make for our businesses then why not choose the option that is guaranteed to have positive benefits on human capital? If we are taking a risk no matter which option we choose to invest in then I think CSR is a no brainer.

In addition to this however, there are many studies and research papers that suggest that there is a very real link between investing in CSR and receiving a return in brand reputation, employee engagement, team moral & motivation, and increase your bottom line. A study done by Genesis states that in some cases CSR has been shown to contribute to a profit increase of 38 percent. Check it out at

Depending on the return you are after, your approach to CSR will differ. Real Exchange specialises in working with companies to implement CSR programs that provide the ROI they are looking for, so if you would like assistance determining a successful path for your business contact Jess Dean on 0423 195 139 or at

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Explore the options available to your business – even if cash is tight.

Posted on October 18, 2011 by Jess

Corporate Social Responsibility or CSR is a term used to describe the actions that business take to ‘give back’, or ‘contribute to’ community development and social aims.

Another way to look at it is that CSR refers to the redistribution of resources in a way that is equitable and sustainable for all.

The automatic assumption of many people is that CSR equals giving away money. What if you are not in a position to give financially? Does that mean that you can not become a socially responsible business?

The good news is that this is not at all the case, CSR can take on so many more forms than just financial contributions. If we define CSR as a redistribution of resources, and ‘giving back’ to community, the possibilities are endless. The resources in your businesses are far broader than cash; what about the skills, knowledge, time, experience, products, and services you and your employees possess? All of these can significantly impact the community around you.

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How to do Corporate Social Responsibility without donating money…

Posted on October 18, 2011 by Jess

You think that it is a good thing for business to be involved in community development and the addressing of social issues, but is it really viable? What if you are business that wants to do the right thing but you are not in a position to give large cash donations? Does this count you out?

The great news is that the answer is absolutely not! Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by definition is not about financial donation rather about using what you do have available to build into community. This may involve financial donations but is certainly not restricted to it. This opens the door for so many new opportunities, check out the examples below of what some businesses are doing in this space;

  • A Melbourne based real estate that I have been working with are in the process of setting up a system in which their landlords have the option to donate part of the rent they earn to an organisation that assists young people living on the streets to obtain shelter, but also gain skills & qualifications that will set them up to get long term work in the hospitality industry. In this example the real estate is not donating money, rather facilitating the transfer of funds to assist homeless youth in Melbourne.
  • A Melbourne based online marketing business has decided to donate 10% of their time to provide their skills on a pro bono basis to not for profit organisation. Also in this example there is no donation of cash, rather donation of a service which for many organisation can be far more valuable anyway.

Time is money, I hear that and I agree. However maybe the game is beginning to change.  

Arie de Geus, Corporate Planning Director for many big companies in the United States, recently said that the ‘rules of the game’ are changing, not longer are businesses going to be deemed successful purely on their financial capital but on the way they build human & social capital. Again, the great news is that this can be done in many ways other than donating money.

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Corporate Social Responsibility’s effect on staff retention & productivity

Posted on October 16, 2011 by Jess

One of the characteristics often associated with Gen Y’s is that they don’t stay in jobs for long periods of time, they like to keep options open and try new things. It is the minority now who choose a career, get their entry-level position and stay with the company until retirement. Very few will stay if not happy, compared to the generations before who stayed regardless because that is just what you did.

It is likely that if you are currently in a management position you have come from this era of ‘stayers’, you perhaps are one yourself and now you look at the staff below you and they are constantly changing, coming and going. Just as you finished training, mentoring and growing their potential something else catches their eye, they get an offer for something different, something more exciting and you have to start all over again.

Recently the BRW magazine released the list of the top 50 places to work in Australia voted by their employees. Who are these companies and what are they doing? What is it that causes people to stick in a job more than 2-3 years? Why do these companies have the very best lining up to get in the door? What are they doing differently?

Some of the findings I found interesting included the amount of time given to employees to engage in their communities and assist with social issues they are passionate about.

  • No. 1 place to work in Australia – Google. Each of its employees receives one paid week each year to do volunteer work.
  • No. 5 – Atlassian. Gives staff 20 per cent of each working week to work on their own innovative ideas.
  • No. 7 – OBS. Offers a matched donation program for selected charities
  • No. 8 – Ikon Communications. Gives staff time off to raise funds and awareness for different charities, as well as time off to volunteer.
  • No. 9 – MRWED Group. Gives staff 8 volunteer days off each year.

And this is just looking at the top 10.

If there is one thing that I know of my peers it is that work needs to be more than simply paying the bills or they will get bored and move on. Getting optimal productivity from your employees will be much easier if you have an environment where they are able to engage with something that they are passionate about. Regardless of the ways that businesses do it, the message over and over in the BRW article is this; happy employees are always more effective ones.

Of course many businesses are not in the position to give the same ‘real’ number of hours or days to their employees, however the principle remains; if you are able to give your employees time to engage in something they enjoy and/or care about, the satisfaction will flow out into the rest of their work, and therefore your bottom line.

In the write up on Google, Australia’s number 1 workplace, the article says; “what googlers enjoy most is being part of something bigger than themselves.”

Explore the ways that you can engage your employees in something bigger then themselves….

Contact Jess Dean on 0423 195 139 or at

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