Comment: Not just a tick in the box, social impact needs to be a company-wide initiative
While more corporates and businesses in Asia are now implementing a social impact strategy, many are still typically incongruent with the company’s profitability and growth objectives and are often rendered obsolete. Effective social impact strategies need to be ingrained in the very fabric of a company’s corporate DNA, and not just a tick in the box. Companies today are still failing to grasp how having an effective social impact strategy is key to long-term growth and viability.
Corporate social responsibility is not the solution to all problems within a company. To put it simply, CSR is a means for companies to bring benefit to themselves and employees whilst also benefiting society. While businesses are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of having such a strategy, they are still lacking in awareness as to how deep a social impact strategy needs to be embedded in a company and why it needs to be embraced in this way.
According to the Landscape for Impact Investing in Southeast Asia report (comprehensive analysis of impact investing activity in the region), social impact initiatives and the social impact investing ecosystem in Southeast Asia has developed significantly over the last decade.
Effective social impact strategies are designed to improve a company’s overall mission, not just its brand identity. Not to be confused with marketing or corporate philanthropy, social impact strategies provide a concrete plan that has both quantifiable business outcomes as well as a measurable and definitive societal impact.
In this day and age, it is not enough to be just profit driven. What makes companies even more successful and stand out is their ability to place profit and purpose alongside each other. In order for a company to truly thrive, it needs to be both profitable and purposeful simultaneously. An organisation that is mainly profit driven is only capable of managing its employees and resources, while an organisation that is both profit and purpose driven provides mobility to its employees and resources in a way that is incomparable. For a company to truly thrive, purpose needs to be embedded in its core. In other words, companies need to do well by doing good.
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In order to address this, companies must fully understand how their employees can be one of their biggest assets to expand their social impact footprint. A company exhibiting a strong social impact strategy not only enhances trust within the public, and makes the company attractive to prospective employees but also results in more engaged employees, geared to generate not only revenue, but valuable channels for marketing and public relationships. The people of a business provide the most genuine representation of a company’s brand and value, organisations need to remember this when considering social impact.
Employees are much more engaged and satisfied with their work when given the opportunity to perform impactful work. This will result in a stronger feeling of fulfilment and purpose amongst employees and essentially enhance a positive impact in the workplace. Studies have shown how corporate social responsibility has been highlighted as one of the key most important drivers of employee engagement, and engaged employees are effective workers and drive results. Which is why purpose and profit need to come hand in hand in a business’s core objectives. It is often easy to forget in the day to day running of a business that regular efforts to engage and give back to the community, whether that involves instigating skills-based volunteering initiatives to strengthen the infrastructure of non-profits, makes a positive impact in the community and is also beneficial to the company brand.
Weak outreach efforts to the community should no longer be acceptable and are not measurable against an embedded, well-implemented social impact strategy, focusing on the day-to-day contributions towards community engagement as opposed to the occasional donation or charitable event.
Scaling up social impact also needs to be a multi-sector process. Effective cross-sector collaboration will enable new techniques and approaches to be deployed to achieve better social outcomes. The combination of public, private and social sector collaboration can address complex social challenges by pulling resources from various players to ensure the improvement of effectiveness and efficiency of the services companies can offer to the public through joint efforts. Too often, public, private and social sectors are segregated and siloed, with their resources fragmented, they need to work together towards common goals and enable mutually desired social outcomes.
It’s all very well to know that social impact must be addressed, but who does that responsibility lie with? It is up to the company’s leadership to ensure that social impact is at the top of the business agenda. They must ensure that an effective strategy is embedded into the company’s day-to-day workings, prioritising long-term value in a way that mutually benefits both employees and society at large. CEOs must outline clear objectives and purpose of the company beyond financial touchpoints, defining their values. It is important that these guiding values, permeate every decision-making process, from environmental footprint to social impact to investment decisions.
Companies must consider social impact as a company wide initiative and not just a tick in the box. If they don’t, they risk losing the trust of the public which can be extremely damaging in the long-term. In this age of heightened transparency and increased accountability, companies cannot afford to leave this issue unaddressed. The consequences in doing so can be profound.
Natasha Mudhar, Global Chief Executive of Sterling Group and Worrld We Want, is an international communicator and director working on some of the most socially relevant global campaigns. Representing SME’s, FTSE 100 companies including billion-dollar hedge funds, as well as disruptors, innovators and high-profile celebrities, Natasha’s insight and global understanding in the realm of business, brand development, market growth and entry strategies has assisted major players align their vision with their business strategies.
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