Intellectual philanthropy: Why we set up the Net Balance Foundation
By Terence Jeyaretnam
From day one, Net Balance wanted to make a difference. We wanted to play a role in a growing community debate on sustainability. We wanted to contribute new ideas through common good research.
We wanted to work with not for profit organisations as well as our commercial clients. And we wanted to make sustainability advisory services accessible to those who could not afford them at full market rates.
We saw the establishment of a Foundation as the way to achieve those aims.
The challenge for a new and growing company like Net Balance was one of resources. We did not have the capital to endow a Foundation with a major investment, allowing it to fund its activities from the interest it earned.
Our capital was tied up in establishing and building the business. So instead of a traditional endowment, we came up with a hybrid structure that allowed us to support the Foundation through the ongoing involvement of our employees, the members of the Net Balance team.
Our people spend most of their work time on Net Balance Management Group projects for commercial clients. But our aim is that over each year, we collectively spend 20% of our time on not-for-profit projects or work at cost through the Net Balance Foundation.
This hybrid business structure helped formalise and focus our contribution to society on sustainability. It has also proved very attractive to potential employees, helping us recruit a very motivated, highly credentialed and skilled team.
We believe we have demonstrated that the hybrid model can work for small to medium sized firms like ours.
Our approach can be summed up in a comment from a member of the external Net Balance Foundation Advisory Board: ‘The Foundation is about intellectual philanthropy’.