The benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives are well documented. Due to a lack of focus and dedication they can end up as empty phrases, clashing with your actual business strategy. A social impact strategy makes sure that you don’t just talk the talk, but also walk the walk and it comes jam-packed with added value.
Recent years have shown two major things when it comes to socially responsible businesses.
It’s not enough to patch up your business with CSR messaging, you need to be purpose driven and authentic, or the customer will see right through you.
This is where the social impact strategy comes into play. It channels your Corporate Social Responsibility into an actionable plan, deeply ingrained into every aspect of your business. Rather than providing quick, unreliable fixes and paying lip service to the sustainability challenges you face, you can create long term solutions. Leading to a positive social impact and a measurable business outcome.
As it’s no longer a secret that your customers (especially Millennials and Gen Z) care and assuming you have pinpointed your company’s purpose, so you have an outline of where you want to position yourself…
What makes a Social Impact Strategy so vital to have?
It sparks (sustainable) innovation
Whether you build a startup from the ground up with CSR in mind or realign your existing company to meet your newly formed CSR goals, your social impact strategy will always be deeply linked with the need for innovation. This, of course, is true for every aspect your business has an impact on.
This means internal processes like part of M&S’s Plan A, which is focusing on cutting waste, saving energy and trading fairly to only name a few steps of their action plan. Change has to start and come from within and it usually also leads to cut costs.
Of course it’s not just processes that will be (re)shaped by a more purpose driven model. Social issues can lead to product innovation and as a result to huge business opportunities. Danone, for example, dealt with an incomplete cold chain for their products in South Africa by developing a packaging that can be stored up to 3 months at room temperature and is made mostly out of grains.
Looking outwards you will see a need to realign or even rebuild your value chain. This can mean looking for new partners who align with your purpose driven goals or supporting the existing ones in embracing and participating in your agenda. Like IKEA did by partnering with UNICEF to help fight the root causes of child labour in India and Pakistan, where many of their textile products are sourced from.
A social impact strategy can be a driving force, pushing you to innovate and create new business opportunities, that might otherwise get overlooked.
It boosts your employee engagement
The numbers speak a clear language, with a staggering 87% of the global employees not being engaged (involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace). In contrast 74% of employees say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work.
This means a social impact strategy can be your turning point in employee engagement and retention. Focus on integrating your purpose into the daily routine, from recycling to more sustainable solutions to things like coffee pads and other single use objects. Let your employees participate in reshaping the workplace with sustainability in mind.
Encourage and participate in charitable activities. Make sure your employees have a voice in deciding what to spend their efforts on and that it aligns with your company wide CSR initiatives.
Don’t forget to communicate the impact of your social impact strategy both internally as well as externally. Your employees want to learn about the impact their efforts have and 51% of the talent out there won’t work for a company that doesn’t have strong social and environmental commitments.
It streamlines your marketing
A social impact strategy enables you to focus your marketing on being transparent and authentic. You don’t even have to be a perfect “Good Business”. Not everyone can or wants to go as all-in as Patagonia does.
Once you managed to create a set of shared values and infuse your brand identity with it, it’s all about communicating it as honestly as possible. Customers who share your values will have an easy time creating an emotional link. You will be rewarded with loyalty and forgiveness in areas you still need to improve.
Furthermore it will be easier for you to convert your customers into brand advocates which is crucial in today’s social media driven marketing world.
Just don’t make the mistake of believing you can fake your way around a social impact strategy by simply implementing CSR into your marketing language. The customers will see right through it like the emperor's new clothes.
It matters to investors
Impact investing is here, it’s real and a social impact strategy enables you to make the most of it. Impact investors are not just interested in your profits, they will want to look at the full costs of how you do business. This means that besides profit, you need to account for the people and the planet. This triple bottom line approach can be challenging at first, as unlike profits, social and environmental responsibility isn’t inherently quantitative.
Once you jump those hurdles, you will have an easier time finding investors who support your cause. Investors who wouldn’t even have given you their time of day without you having a social impact strategy.
It’s the right thing to do
In our day and age a social impact strategy is no longer something that is nice to have, but a must. We have a shared responsibility in not just looking at the profit bottom line of the businesses we have and create, but also include the impact we have on the people and the planet. It can seem like a daunting task to tackle, especially if this hasn’t been on the forefront of your business plan. Allmende is built to make the transition into a sustainable business as smooth as possible.
Get in touch with us today in order to get expert support in creating your social impact strategy and become a driving force in shaping what it means to be a “Good Business”.