Is your business innovative about impact?

As BeyondMe’s movement of professionals can testify, charities aren’t the only ones working to understand or tackle stubborn social problems. But how should organisations demonstrate their commitment?

One practise dynamic companies use increasingly are annual ‘impact’ or ‘social responsibility’ reports. For charities, an impact report or annual report demonstrates the purpose, effectiveness and direction of their programmes. This can be used to speak to…. funders, supporters, investors, and commissioners; boards and senior management undertaking strategic or organisational reviews; internal staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries; and fundraising and communications materials, for the public and key stakeholders.

To coincide with the publication of own and very first Impact Report, we take a look at some of the most innovative ways businesses have raised the subject of social, environmental and community impact.

The spread of impact reporting

‘Proud’ might not normally be a word you’d associate with companies. We’re more used to reading financial reporting centred on deals, profits, trends and M&A. However, modern businesses are increasingly using the opportunities of impact reporting to take stock of their year’s achievements and demonstrate that profit and social or environmental goals can sit side by side.

One reason for this might be to make themselves attractive as a destination for customers, talent and investment in the 21st Century. The Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism, published a recent report into what they call, ‘the millennial challenge’.

Inside the authors reason that, to maintain their appeal in the modern economy, new generations of stakeholder are increasingly eager to see their input measured against social, not just financial values.

“With an estimated $30 trillion in wealth expected to transfer from baby boomers to millennials in the next 30 years, there is a deepened interest in learning about what millennials value as employees, customers, citizens, and investors.
…. millennials pursue the fulfillment of their values in everything they do — personally, professionally, and financially.
Because millennials are so purpose-driven, they also want their finances invested with a purpose, as they no longer view business growth and social purpose as sequential pursuits, but as fundamentally simultaneous ones.”

We might call this factor, ‘the stick’. If businesses don’t demonstrate their ability to act responsibly socially, as well as financially, they may well find themselves struggling to compete.

An alternative motivation, ‘the carrot’, comes not from increasing competition, but from better joined up thinking as businesses work together under the banner of the UN Global Compact.

Directly borrowing the concepts and best practises of impact reporting from the charity sector, this global community of business leaders have found that, when you’re sitting at the top tables with other CEOs, having something of your own to share. Such a positive motivation has seemingly provided an effective path of more and better data around social and environmental aims.

What started with just 44 business participants now counts over 8,000 contributors from more places across the world and in more sectors than ever.

Not only has the number of firms tacking, investing in and openly discussing their impact increased as a result of the initiative, but new forms of co-ordination have also become possible as businesses measure themselves against a common framework.

In effect, better impact reporting is making it easier for previously abstract ‘global goals’ to translate into local, national and international co-ordination on a range of issues covered by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. As signatories of the Compact get into the habit of including purpose-driven data on investor, customer and production, they’re also improving the quality of their reporting:

In 2014 they collected 5,404 ‘Communications of Progress’ — reporting that details a company’s work to embed the ‘Ten principles’ of the UN Compact’s Strategy into firm’s strategic and operational priorities. 399 were awarded an ‘advanced’ standard.

Can we learn more about impact from charities?

As any good business professional will recognise, reports on important topics need a good set of metrics to make clear what success looks likes. According to the one-stop-shop for charity and social enterprise best practise, New Philanthropy Capital (NPC):

good “impact reporting means communicating the difference you made to the people you are trying to help, or to the issue you are trying to improve”.

Along with other leading lights of the non-profit world including the Institute of Fundraising, Social Enterprise UK, AVECO and more, NPC published a report on the ‘Principles of Good Impact Reporting’ for charities and social enterprises a few years back.

Perhaps in the spirit of spreading best practise across sectors, the UN have similarly published their reporting framework that, in a business context may give purpose-driven professionals an addition source of inspiration.

Impact Reporting: the best in [the] business

Here are some of our favourites from the for-profit companies making and impact as well as $£$£:

Etsy: crafting their way to community-building

Top marks for presentation and narrative too.

As a certified ‘b corp’ since 2012, Etsy have a really strong mission/vision on their website that links straight through to a section on impact.

Their last published Progress Report included: results from their employee happiness index, diversity metrics on their employees, in-depth tracking of their ecological footprint and information on the infrastructure behind the brand. Whats more, Katie Hunt-Morr, senior manager of values and impact, said:

“being a philanthropist isn’t really about giving money; it’s about sharing the mixture of your incredible skill-set, experiences, perspective and time.”

BeyondMe were most impressed by: the quote above — bang on.

Salesforce: making targeted contributions from connections

In particular, we at BeyondMe like how their personal giving policy prioritises the time, skills and professional experience donated by employees over money.

The Customer Relations Management database giant, Salesforce, use their values to demonstrate an integrated philanthropy profile that builds a clear picture of the ‘Salesforce Foundation’ targeting the users of their services.

BeyondMe were most impressed by: how well a broad range of activities sit together including: the technology they provide to charities, their own employee engagement activities and employee-led grants programme.

Bloomberg’s top-level activism is met all the way to the bottom

The media giant, Bloomberg, have strong direction on the firm’s social and environmental ambitions from company founder, Mike Bloomberg. This impact report uses attractive statistical information to give a comprehensive overview of how these initiatives trickle down to employees and beyond.

BeyondMe were most impressed by: their volunteer hour numbers — good effort team!

Mailchimp: telling the story of constant communications

In charities as in business, data and impact offer important insights about whats working for the organisation and how individuals are contributing to these changes day-by-day. One brilliant example of this comes from email marketing super-service, Mailchimp, who’ve actually been publishing high quality annual reports for years.

Mixing more personal insights with headline figures, they’ve been able to build a more three dimensional view of of their company’s work. The really eye-catching aspect that impressed us was how well the report builds a narrative to keep you reading. How far have you scrolled down?

BeyondMe were most impressed by: how enjoyable it is to read.

These are just some examples, but we look forward to seeing many more companies taking a transparent approach to their social and environmental impact in future.

For more information about how common business and charity motives mix in BeyondMe, take a look at our website and OUR VERY OWN IMPACT REPORT now.

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