Why Social Impact Should Be Agenda Item No 1!

As we are all strive to grow, post the horrors of the recession, I see businesses all clamouring to demonstrate their values, ethics and how they are contributing to the development of society.

But, don’t you think that the world of business has been guilty of leveraging the notion of ‘doing good’, without realising how much untapped potential they have to actually make a sustainable long term impact?

I believe that the more companies measure their social impact in clear financial numbers, that senior directors, boards and shareholders can understand, the more confident the organisation would feel about investing MORE into activities that meet social needs AND provide long term business sustainability. That is the REAL win/win!

Why do I passionately believe that?

Because in any business, the numbers do not lie!

It is essential that social impact is viewed as a board level strategic driver of growth for businesses. Yes, I know that it feels uncomfortable to view helping society, in hard commercial and monetary terms, but that is the language that boardrooms need to be discuss this subject in, in order for more investment to be made into society.

CSR, Social Responsibility, Citizenship, CR whatever term that your business likes to use, is often seen as a business expense – an expense that brings some form of intangible value to the business.

Often, this value is based upon PR and Brand Awareness, as the value of good news can be priceless if it is utilised correctly.

Culturally, social impact has been regarded as ‘something that we just do’ or ‘helps to bring out staff together’ or ‘makes us look good’…don’t get me wrong – the ‘feel good factor’ that CAN inspire others to take positive action.

But I’ve never been comfortable watching businesses promote good news stories via simplistic, easy to deliver models of CSR activity that they can hang their hat on for PR, especially when nothing pulls the heart strings of customers more, than doing something good for the community!

Simply put, it is not sustainable to base long-term social impact, on high levels of ‘feel good factor’ alone.

Here are three reasons why Social Impact needs to articulated in numbers:

Business who evaluate their return on investment more accurately, can identify where they can make the most social impact: Some companies may be better at meeting one type of social needs, over another. Without knowing the direct impact in bottom-line financial terms, it is difficult to know where that may be, long term.

New cross sector partnerships can be formed to meet social needs, in innovative ways: Articulating social impact in financial terms, can reveal gaps and missed opportunities where positive impact can be compounded within the community. This can help grass roots organisations who have the local networks, links and access to work in partnership to fill those gaps where larger businesses cannot.

Your numbers always tell the real story: Profit can mean different things, to different businesses, in different ways. But the hard facts and figures on any investment, whether it is about meeting corporate objectives or social needs, tell you what is really happening and also reveals what needs to be done.

That is why I decided to focus on the largest contributing business sector in Birmingham and have launched the Cultiv8 SV50 campaign, to find, measure and promote the Top 50 Professional Service Sector firms by their level of social impact!.

For information on this, feel free to get in touch.

Just think: how much additional investment could we ALL bring to the city to our meet social needs and help our communities prosper, if our businesses had financial clarity on how much they actually help those less fortunate, within our city?

Ladies and gentleman, this is now possible to work out…

Till the next time,

JB