Birmingham, UK – The City Where Good Business Means Doing Good?

What do businesses need to understand, in order to create a successful cross sector, integrated and strategic CSR programme for a whole city?

This is a question that I was pondered whilst sitting in the audience, at a recent ‘CSR City’ event held at Pinsent Masons, Birmingham. A number of city organisations were also presented with their certificates, as new signatories of the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility.


With a number of business leaders from a number of Professional Service sector firms in attendance, the event, at times, became a self-congratulatory stage promoting individual projects and activities, but it WAS great to hear about some of the good work that is being done and the impact it is creating for others in the community.

I was also pleased to hear the agreement in the room that the business sector (professional services was the focus at this event) have a clear responsibility to use their resources and capacity to do more for society and that our local authority, is willing to put resources behind a strategic city-wide response to meeting our cities social needs.

But if I’m honest and based on my experience, I think there is a storm ahead..passion, a ‘feel good’ factor, pats on the back and great speeches is one thing..but what do the numbers on social impact at board level, say?

Let’s look at some key factors that the business leaders in attendance DID NOT KNOW:

Now, you may be thinking “this is all global level activity, so how does this have a local impact?”

Fair question, but this is about understand the factors of the ecosystem that businesses are a part of and the future impacts to come, even if they don’t know it yet.  Let me focus on one key factor: Money.

CSR / Social Impact / Citizenship / Social Responsibility or whatever term you may wish to use, is often regarded as something you should not connect to the notion of making money or profit. It’s taboo, it’s not moral, it’s not the done thing…personally, I believe therein lies the problem.

I believe that if businesses both view and integrate social impact as a strategic investment tool of growth for the business, then I believe real sustainable change will take place in society and within communities.

Here are my reasons why:

  • If a business invests money into ANY business activity, it must measure the return on that investment, to ensure the best amount of value is being achieved. CSR / Social impact is no different.
  • If social investment is measured in hard business numbers and the results are positive, then this will give confidence to key decision-makers within the business, to INVEST EVEN MORE into communities.
  • Financial metric analysis forces key decision-makers to strategically review CSR strategies, methods of measurement and stakeholder relationships focused on sustainable business growth, and more importantly, sustainable impact that must be achieved in order for ALL of society to achieve!

This is why we have already launched the Birmingham SV100, a new league table that will rank the Top 100 Birmingham companies from across all sectors, based upon their Social Earnings Ratio (SER).

This process has already started, and we are inviting companies to contact us to learn how they can get their own Social Earnings Ratio Score, for inclusion onto the Birmingham SV100.

Simply put, for every pound spent by a business on CSR, we measure much money their social impact adds to their company bottom-line. We also measure social impact as a percentage of the companies overall net worth and a few more bits and bobs..

I am determined to help businesses embrace social impact more strategically, so that together, we make Birmingham the ‘CSR City’ of Europe, a place where good business means doing good – hmm, that has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?


3 Reasons Why Social Impact Should Be A Strategic Tool For Growth!

Doing good is fast becoming a strategic imperative for forward-thinking ambitious businesses.

For years, there have been stories in the media, questioning the values and ethics of businesses. CEO’s are being held to account for their actions, brand values are being tested and social impact is fast becoming an item of serious debate.

But are business, and corporates in particular, ready to receive the emerging benefits of bringing social impact into the heart of their business?

This was a key question on Friday 6th June 2014, when we held our 3rd Annual CSR Summit at Aston Business School, UK. Our theme was Social Innovation, looking at how businesses can use social impact as a disruptive tool for commercial growth and corporate venturing with small SME’s with niche capabilities.

From CEO’s to charities to social enterprises to public sector organisations to big businesses, the mix provoked healthy debate and the sharing of insight and experiences. Cultiv8 launched its preliminary Social Value Report which highlighted the first phase of research in conjunction with the CCEG, into we convert Social Impact into tangible financial metrics in £millions for companies – it was interesting to see the faces in the audiences, when we explained that disruptive innovation allows us to measure a companies social impact in £millions, without needing the companies permission AND its legal!

Cultiv8 CSR Summit Picture

I would have loved to have seen MORE corporates there. We had a few but it got me thinking – are corporates REALLY AWARE of the opportunity that social impact provides them, their stakeholders and the future of their business?


Here are three key benefits that I believe are so often overlooked:

– Social connectivity can identify leadership potential: Social connectivity is about connecting hearts and minds together, which is an invaluable skill that corporate leaders need to have. Leading people is hard at the best of times, but connecting with others through a genuine appreciation of their values and their own external perspective, empowers that individual to embrace challenges more readily, therefore increasing productivity and, more importantly, sourcing positive solutions because they know you care about THEM.

– Niche businesses can fill the gaps that are leaking money from the business: System failure is often masked by ‘corporate arrogance’ and that arrogance, often results in missed opportunities. If more corporates were willing to embrace smaller companies who have the access, networks and niche experience on the ground, then many corporates could reserve the funds and resources that use to fix ‘burst pipes’ caused by old traditional and hierarchical thinking.

– The numbers tell you the story, if you believe the numbers make sense: Social impact is often regarded as the ‘kum-ba-yah’ of business; the warm and fluffy feeling that oozes through the company; the icing on the proverbial cake at the end of the financial year!

But if the numbers created by social impact are looked at through commercial eyes, how would that change the focus of the business? I believe so!

This is why we license software that gives companies their own Social Earnings Ratio score. Our software allows your company to:

  • Measure and report your companies’ social impact in £’s figures
  • Measure your social impact as a % of your companies’ overall net worth
  • Benchmark your company against your competitors and across private, public and third sectors seamlessly

I think ambitious businesses need to think long and hard about what ‘being social responsible’ means to them – in their defence, many have been and are doing wonderful things for the good of society. But the time has come, for there to be a more commercial and strategic approach for investing into social impact.

If a company can articulate what social impact means to their bottom-line, then maybe they will decide to invest even more to meet growing social needs – would be nice, wouldn’t it?

Till the next time, J



Joel Blake AGP is the Founder of Cultiv8 Solutions – learn more about him here.

Cultiv8 Solutions is an award-winning social impact consultancy based in the Colmore Business District, Birmingham UK. 

They believe that Banking and Finance companies (or any corporate) have the greatest opportunity to create impact for their shareholders. But more importantly, for their communities. 

They help these companies convert doing good, into a tool for growth and meeting social needs sustainably.

To learn more about how they can help your company:

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