When Everyone is an Activist: New Benevity Data Shows the Corporate World Did, In Fact, Deliver on Purpose in 2020


In light of the global awakening to the power of social justice movements, Benevity’s inaugural report sheds light on the state of corporate purpose and the fast-changing ESG landscape


CALGARY, Alberta, April 20, 2021 -- Benevity, Inc., the leading provider of global corporate purpose software, today released its inaugural State of Corporate Purpose, a first-of-its-kind report from Benevity Impact Labs that takes a comprehensive look at the ESG landscape as business continues to be the most trusted institution. The report studies the effects of the events of 2020 on corporate purpose, including the growth in consumer and employee activism as the driver of more democratized approaches by companies across a wide spectrum of industries. Software (22%), manufacturing (17%), finance (15%) and business services (10%) represent the top sectors that invested in technology platforms, such as Benevity, to scale strategic and impactful ESG and purpose initiatives. 

The State of Corporate Purpose is the largest study of its kind in recent years, drawing insights from Benevity’s 650 clients running purpose programs with a network of over 19 million employees and hundreds of millions of their customers around the globe. The report highlights the significant role corporations play today in activating individuals to drive change at a global scale. Benevity’s report aims to provide deep insights, actionable takeaways and a blueprint for corporations on how to lead and support in the era of stakeholder capitalism.  

It is no longer an obligation to fulfill an organization’s social mandate -- purpose is now firmly rooted as a strategic focus for companies that believe in the power of stakeholder capitalism.

— Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer at Benevity

“2020 dramatically accelerated and amplified investment in a modern approach to corporate social responsibility. It is no longer an obligation to fulfill an organization’s social mandate -- purpose is now firmly rooted as a strategic focus for companies that believe in the power of stakeholder capitalism,” said Sona Khosla, Chief Impact Officer at Benevity. “The events of 2020 forever changed the way companies and people activate on social and environmental issues. Our report discovered just how much grassroots action and social-media fueled movements are influencing greater corporate focus on ESG, forcing a permanent shift in the way business performance will be measured.”

Key Findings

As movements continue to advance social change, Benevity’s report reveals new trends and insights that will shape the future of corporate purpose:

  • Despite economic uncertainty, investment in corporate purpose is growing: In the past year, 30% of corporate budgets grew while 50% remained unchanged, showing that companies are just as, or more, engaged in activating on purpose in times of crisis and purpose remains a long-term priority at the executive level, even as other functional budgets are slashed. In fact, in just eight weeks following the announcement that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic, more than 500 companies and 450,000 of their people on the Benevity platform drove $640 million in donations, 786,000 volunteer hours, 53,000 positive actions and 8,648 corporate grants to support 79,000 global nonprofits. We also saw notable shifts in the top 10 causes supported with an uptick in the share of dollars going to food security causes (+268%) as a means of tackling bubbling equity issues brought on by the pandemic.
  • Social justice causes take center stage as organizations rally around racial equity en masse: As diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) tops the executive agenda, more companies recognize the opportunity to increase the connection between their inclusion and purpose efforts in tangible ways. In June 2020, a record was set for the most donations in a single month through the Benevity platform, with more than $300 million going to 64,000 nonprofits. Social injustice response accounted for 51% of the Top 10 Causes that month, representing a staggering 15x increase in donation volume compared with May 2020. Unfortunately, share of donations to this cause category dropped back to 5% by December 2020.
  • Companies consider a new raison d’être for their corporate purpose programs: While 59% of corporate purpose leaders felt these programs were critical for helping nonprofits in times of need, almost as many — 58% — felt they were valuable for fostering employee connection and 49% indicated their programs became more critical than ever to building culture. As we enter the post-COVID world, the changes to the employee experience and the prevalence of remote work will make the connective and unifying elements of corporate purpose programs even more critical in attracting, retaining and engaging workers.
  • Purpose-driven customer engagement is on the rise: With isolation and disconnection caused by the pandemic, more companies are recognizing the opportunity to leverage resources that engage their broader networks to drive impact at scale. In 2020, 151 companies (a 70% year-over-year increase) enabled Benevity’s customer engagement solution to mobilize collective movements. Customer and public relief campaigns alone raised $17.7 million for 4,691 unique nonprofits, compared to $7.4 million in 2019.


Delivering Tangible Impact

As the ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) landscape evolves, 2020 was the first year where corporations made significant leaps to close the gap between aspiration and action. The report reveals that for purpose to continue to deliver on its full value it must be woven into the fabric of a company’s DNA and go beyond the pursuit of traditional philanthropic goals and outcomes and beyond PR. Key steps such as harnessing grassroots action involving employees and customers, promoting digital-first opportunities such as virtual volunteering, and leveraging the power of technology to manage and measure purpose initiatives, won out in 2020 as stepping stones to help corporations take a proactive and authentic approach to delivering on purpose.

This engagement-first approach that democratizes purpose, is not only the future of work, but the future of business.

— Bryan de Lottinville, Founder and Executive Chairperson at Benevity

“Business is at an inflection point when it comes to purpose, said Bryan de Lottinville, Founder and Executive Chairperson at Benevity. For the first time, donations from companies and their people to racial equity causes are outpacing donations from personal foundations and individual philanthropists. These are not PR-driven handouts as a license to operate; these are investments in building sustainable, resilient and compelling businesses that people want to work for and buy from. This engagement-first approach that democratizes purpose, is not only the future of work, but the future of business.”

The State of Corporate Purpose is available at benevity.com/corporatepurposereport.

About Benevity

Benevity, a certified B Corporation, is a leading provider of global corporate purpose software, providing the only integrated suite of community investment and employee, customer and nonprofit engagement solutions. A finalist in Fast Company’s 2020 World Changing Ideas Awards, many iconic brands rely on Benevity’s cloud solutions to power their purpose in ways that better attract, retain and engage today’s diverse workforce, embed social action into their customer experiences and positively impact their communities. With software that is available in 20 languages, Benevity has processed more than 7 billion dollars in donations and 38 million hours of volunteering time, 340,000 positive actions and awarded one million grants to 303,000 nonprofits worldwide.

About Benevity Impact Labs

Benevity Impact Labs is an incubator and resource hub bringing new data, research and insights to help companies, nonprofits and individuals maximize their impact and authentically live their purpose. With unparalleled access to the world’s most iconic brands, Benevity Impact Labs combines Benevity’s robust data and insights with third-party research to report on the top trends shaping corporate purpose and measure the full range of impact from their strategies and investments.

Media Contact: Andrea Davis │ Media & Communications Manager │ 1.403.966.5622 │ press@benevity.com