Social impact measurement of Mondi’s community investments and activities

Introduction to the Company

Mondi is an integrated packaging and paper Group with a dual listed company structure—a primary listing on the JSE Limited and premium listing on the London Stock Exchange. It has 109 operations in more than 30 countries in Europe, Russia, North America and South Africa. It had some 25,000 employees and revenues of €6.7 billion in 2016.

Introduction to the Project

A 2004 survey of its forestry communities in South Africa indicated that there were more than 1,000 orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) living on and around Mondi-owned land in remote communities, many of whom were living in child-headed households. One of the major reasons for the high number of OVCs in forest communities is the fact that South Africa has one of the highest adult prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in the world. As the health and well-being of its communities is important to Mondi’s business and forms part of its social commitments, in 2007, Mondi set up the Isibindi Project in partnership with local governments andNGOs. This community program targets approximately 700 OVCs and addresses children’s needs, from the most basic such as cooking, feeding and washing, to schooling and psychological wellness. There are currently 30 child and youth care workers (CYCWs) working for the program. Examples of project activities are: establishing and maintaining safe parks for OVCs, conducting home visits to advise householders on a number of topics (e.g. facilitating statutory documents for OVCs,  budgeting, hygiene, bereavement support, and responsible behaviors), and training accredited CYCWs.

Stage 1: Frame

In order to identify and prioritize the social capital issues relevant to Mondi’s operations and to local communities in a particular area, Mondi engages in stakeholder consultations with community members, employees, suppliers, NGOs and other stakeholders by using the Socio-Economic Assessment Toolbox (SEAT) process originally developed by Anglo American.20  During 2005 and 2006, Mondi undertook a SEAT for each of its mills and forestry operations at the time, with South African and Russian mills and forestry operations going through regular updates in subsequent years. The output of the SEAT process is a publicly available report that reflects the findings from the process and Mondi’s management response to issues raised by stakeholders. SEAT is a global framework that provides the opportunity for local responses to the specific issues identified locally. 

The Isibindi project was one of Mondi’s responses to a 2005 SEAT finding that recognized orphan care as a serious issue in Mondi’s local operations. 

Mondi aims to develop a simple, fit-for-purpose, robust and scalable framework and methodology that will measure the impact and value that Mondi’s community investments and activities have on beneficiary communities and the business. As the Isibindi project has a broad and comprehensive focus involving health, education, infrastructure and employment support (directly or indirectly), Mondi chose it as a pilot project for this framework. 

A range of business value drivers lie behind Mondi’s decision to measure the impacts of its community activities:

  1. A more targeted and strategic approach founded on value creation for the business and for the communities, based on measurement of outcomes and impacts;
  2. Demonstrating the impacts of community investments on Mondi’s other key stakeholder groups (such as employees, government, contractors, suppliers and customers);
  3. Using the results of the analysis to improve and develop the program to make it more effective and to make improvements to the current community investments;
  4. Demonstrating the effectiveness of Mondi’s community investments to make the business case for community engagement stronger both internally and externally;
  5. Using the results for reporting requirements and for certification requirements.

The main stakeholder groups that are impacted by the project are identified by Mondi as: 

  1. Forest communities—Support is prioritized first to people living on Mondi’s land and then to those living near the land. As cohesion of the whole community is important for the long-term sustainability of the business, Mondi targets all OVCs and not specifically those directly related to families in the Mondi value chain. 
  2. Child and youth care workers (CYCW)—Training of CYCWs and providing employment opportunities for them within Isibindi directly impacts their lives and future prospects, as well as those of their communities.
  3. Implementing organizations—NGOs such as the National Association of Child Care Workers (NACCW) or Uzwelo Rural Orphan Care (UROC), and government institutions such as the Department of Health and the Department of Social Development are key to the implementation of the project and form a complex web of partnerships.
Stage 2: Scope

The target audience of the assessments is internal and external and reflects the many business value drivers. Internally, Mondi’s management and boards are interested in seeing a strong business case for community engagement and in gaining a clear understanding of the business’ impacts and dependencies. For external communication, Mondi is keen to demonstrate the outcomes, impact and value generated by its community projects and the business case for these. It also shows how they contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The assessment of the Isibindi project focuses on the local communities that are beneficiaries or affected by the project in the South African provinces of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu Natal. The assessment period of the social outcomes of the project is from 2010-2015. This period is long enough to show change and short enough for the data to remain available. The reference baseline is 2010 and indicators are compared with 2010 data to demonstrate change. 

Mondi uses the impact or dependency pathway framework (input>output>outcome>impact>value) with the aim of learning how to define practical and meaningful metrics to monitor and evaluate projects.

Mondi takes on the role of key facilitator of the many partners involved in the project, thereby demonstrating its long-term commitment to its success. Understanding how the impacts of the project can be attributed to Mondi and the partners individually would be a very complex process and would not provide much value. Instead, Mondi is interested in understanding the impact of the project as a whole, and in the value generated by it for the business and for the communities. Mondi believes that projects done in partnerships with local stakeholders such as NGOs and government institutes would bring the necessary resources and know-how, ensure an appropriate approach and scale, and secure the long-term success of projects. 

Stage 3: Measure and Value

The social assessment of the Isibindi project was done with the support of external company ERM and took three months to complete. The long-term aim is for Mondi to be able to run the assessments itself by implementing monitoring and measurement mechanisms for each project. 
The choice of valuation approach was based on the availability of data internally and externally and on generating meaningful results that could be both of use for project implementation on the ground and to provide insights into project effectiveness and value creation for Mondi management and external stakeholders.  
Key performance indicators (KPIs) are set at the local level with the intention to rolling them up to Group level measures, where possible and meaningful. Given the burden of regular data collection from the stakeholders involved, practicality and availability rather than strict adherence to methodology drove the choice of indicators at times. 
Mondi is aiming to gradually move away from output indicators, to include more outcome/impact based indicators, which have been deemed more reflective of the real impact on the ground. See the mapping of Isibindi project indicators to “SDG 1: No poverty” and “SDG 4: Quality education” below, as well as some Group-level return on social investment indicators.

SDG 1 No poverty  
TargetsIsibindi KPIs
1.1. Impact: The degree that Mondi has been able to alleviate poverty within its surrounding communities (currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day)
  • Improvement in number of beneficiary households that are able to cover their essential needs with income received
  • Improvement in income levels of Project Workers and beneficiaries 
  • The number of beneficiaries that Mondi supported to access nationally appropriate social protection systems
SDG 4 Quality education 
TargetsIsibindi KPIs
4.1. Output/outcome: Support to girls and boys in completing equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
  • Improvement in children’s academic performance
  • Improvement in school attendance levels and less absenteeism

Primary data collection was conducted through surveys and focus groups and secondary, historical data was collected through the project partners. Some of the challenges around data collection included the fact that other factors beyond the Isibindi project will have affected stakeholder outcomes over a five-year period. The company made efforts during questionnaire construction to isolate impacts to the specific activities of the Isibindi project. The pilot study did not have sufficient scope, however, to fully explore the role that these external factors might have had. Also, quantitative data provided by partners could not be verified. 

Stage 4: Apply and Integrate

Given that the aim of the project was to identify group-level KPIs, integrating the process and results of the assessment into the business was part of the process from inception. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a broadly recognized common language and aligning local KPIs to the SDGs offers an efficient communication channel for group-level and external communication. Mondi also understands the importance of setting up the right structure internally through country liaisons and the appropriate level of capacity building to allow continuous assessment once the consultants are gone.

The next step for Mondi is to roll out the social impact assessment framework to other projects in other countries and to validate its applicability across locations. 

The main finding of the Isibindi Social Impact Measurement Assessment is that Mondi and its partners are creating lasting improvements in the quality of life for the main beneficiaries of the project, namely OVCs, their families and child and youth care workers.

The exercise has proven very valuable for Mondi at different levels:

  1. It has strengthened the business case around the project’s contribution to Mondi’s sustainable development commitments. 
  2. It has strengthened Mondi’s relationships with the partners who implement much of the work on the ground and highlighted the role of partnership models in the long-term success of projects. 
  3. It has given renewed energy to the care workers who are the data collectors as they can see the importance of their work and understand how the data, which they spend a considerable amount of time collecting, is being put to good use. 
  4. The data helps to track progress and maximize the positive impact that the project can have on the children and on their lives.