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Case Studies | Visa: Aligning and Strengthening Corporate Responsibility Strategy

Publication Date

June 2009


The Challenge

Visa Inc. undertook the world’s largest initial public offering (IPO) in March 2008. As one of the world’s foremost brands, Visa sought to “place a stake in the ground” as a leader in responsible business at the time of its IPO. Executives sought to create an integrated and strengthened vision of corporate responsibility to achieve greater impact—building on its existing programs in employee engagement, environmental stewardship, community relations, and philanthropy. They engaged BSR to assess the company’s existing programs, analyze strategic options, and prepare a comprehensive corporate responsibility platform.

Our Strategy

Our three-step approach, described below, led Visa to adopt the theme of “inclusive economic growth” for its global sustainability program.

Assessment: The BSR team interviewed senior executives to understand the company’s strategic business priorities and identify key intersection points with corporate responsibility. We then assessed and benchmarked Visa’s impacts and activities in core products and services, philanthropy, community relations, employee involvement, and environmental stewardship. We also conducted a materiality analysis to define the most critical elements of corporate responsibility for Visa.

Strategy Development: Based on the assessment, we worked with Visa to develop a comprehensive sustainability strategy and helped to define an implementation strategy.

Implementation: As a result, the company adopted inclusive economic growth” as its defining theme for corporate responsibility. This concept is used as the basis for all program development for philanthropy, community relations, and employee involvement. We created specific one- to two-year goals and action plans—including staffing and structure—as well as longer-term goals and actions, with high-level business cases for each. Throughout this process, we focused on efficient ways for Visa to have the most meaningful impact and exemplify leadership as a publicly traded company.

Our Impact

This project resulted in a highly focused corporate responsibility strategy at Visa to support the company at a key turning point in its history. The strategy BSR helped develop has resulted, for the first time, in a clear objective guiding all aspects of Visa’s corporate responsibility: inclusive economic growth. The development of this objective has animated both internal efforts and external engagements, including a new signature partnership with Oxfam, as well as increased support for environmental stewardship, financial literacy, and workplace practices that promote economic growth for all.

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