Over the last two years, the partition between home and work has steadily dissolved. So it is no wonder that our personal New Year’s resolutions are seeping into our professional lives. For many, this translates into looking for opportunities to leverage your role and your company’s resources to improve the world.
We're now one month into 2022. How is it going?
If your efforts have stalled, here are some quick tips and resources to get back on track.
🚦 First, you need to get the green light from leadership. Here’s a set of talking points to help make your case.
✨ Good Leaders Do Good
Prominent business leaders acknowledge their responsibility to create societal value. Your leadership would be in good company to do the same.
→ In 2018, Larry Fink asserted in his now-famous annual letter to CEOs that social impact and sustainability are key aspects of any healthy business, and confirmed this would be a defining factor in BlackRock’s investment strategy going forward. He doubled down on this vision in his 2022 letter.
→ And it’s not just BlackRock. In the summer of 2019, under the umbrella of Business Roundtable, some of the country’s most influential CEOs declared that companies should put social responsibility above profit, shifting from a shareholder value to a stakeholder value model.
💰 Investors are Asking
Investors are putting capital behind businesses with strong social impact credentials.
→ According to Aflac’s 2016 CSR report, 61% of investors consider CSR a sign of “ethical corporate behavior, which reduces investment risk.” And that number is only growing: In 2020, 85% of investors considered ESG factors in their investments.
→ In considering sustainability, Bridgewater Associates’ CIO states, “We consider impact to be a third dimension as important as risk and return.”
→ Many family offices and even some venture capital firms, such as Social Capital, have centered their portfolios around companies working to solve the world’s biggest problems.
→ A recent KPMG report highlights the increasingly critical role that ESG plays in investment valuations, specifically concluding that:
→ This work has grown in importance, totally transforming the risk environment in which companies operate
→ COVID-19 has particularly increased the prominence of the social component of Environmental Social and Governance (the basis of Social Impact)
💕 Customers Care
A wide body of evidence shows that today’s consumers are more likely to support companies that share their values and invest in their communities.
→ Fuse Marketing, found that after learning a brand is “socially responsible,” Gen-Z consumers are nearly 85% more likely to trust and buy their products.
→ According to a Cone/Porter Novelli survey, 91% of Millennials would switch from a product they typically buy to one from a purpose-driven company.
→ Developing and implementing high-quality, integrated social impact campaigns has a material influence on your company’s bottom line—and is quickly becoming a “need to have” for organizations across the majority of sectors.
💼 Today’s Talent + Future Pipeline
Three in five Millennials say they won’t take a job if their employer doesn’t have a strong Corporate Social Responsibility policy, and 83% say they would be more loyal to a company that helps them positively contribute to social and environmental issues.
When it comes to Gen Z, the data is even more compelling: Studies show they’re the first generation to value purpose over salary.
Social Impact will continue to be crucial for recruitment and retention for decades to come. This is not a fad. It’s a seed change.
Once you get the green light to move forward on a Social Impact initiative, you’ll want to make the most of it. 👏
Here are some strategies we suggest:
🕶 The Vision
The foundation of every successful Social Impact program is a strong, cohesive, and logical purpose. Begin by brainstorming the answers to three questions.
→ What can my organization offer the world? Said another way: What are you uniquely good at that translates to social impact value?
→ Of the items on your list, what does the world need accomplished? Your purpose lives in the overlap of those answers—picture a Venn diagram.
→ Finally, among the overlapping opportunities, what will ignite the most passion among you and your colleagues? Your mission, and all of your work will ladder to and from this unifying purpose, and you want to make sure people will be motivated to engage.
📝 The Setup
Once you’ve articulated your purpose, simply getting started is often the hardest step.
→ Establish how your organization can leverage its resources to bring value to this work. It may include volunteerism or building relationships with strategic nonprofits, but it will also include other opportunities that are very specific to your business, such as advocacy, impact investing, or supply chain management.
At Ethos, we call these different ways to help “Levers”—check out our Lever Model here. Once you’ve identified all of the ways you can do this work, put together a pilot to start testing out your plan.
💪 The Work
What isn’t measured isn’t managed.
→ Once your initiatives are up and running, it is imperative that the work is closely monitored and regularly evaluated. Without clear KPIs it is very difficult to actually make a difference.
→ Once the work is working—and you have data to prove it—share it! Your colleagues, customers, investors, and the community you call home will appreciate the updates. A big part of creating stakeholder value is letting your stakeholders know how it is going.
The most successful Social Impact work we see happens when motivated internal leaders take initiative. Good luck—we can’t wait to see the difference you will make!
Emily Kane Miller is Founder and CEO of Ethos Giving, a social impact services firm in Los Angeles. She also is a scholar in residence at The Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab at the USC Marshall School of Business.