You may have noticed that many businesses are taking a louder approach these days. Creating a product or service doesn’t happen in a void. Consumers are more interested than ever in knowing the background of the companies they support. That’s where social impact organizations are changing the face of business today.
You may have gotten questions from customers or clients about where you source your materials or what causes you support. People are passionate about “voting with their dollar.” Studies show that more often, consumers buy where they feel their values are reflected.
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Are Social Impact Organizations the Future?
Over time, many more companies integrate “social impact” as a driving principle in their business structure. In 2018, a study found that 78% of Americans expect companies to focus on making a positive impact with their work.
They want companies that care about more than just profits. The idea is that for-profit businesses have a responsibility to provide a good or service. But they also must integrate a level of social consciousness and impact.
What Does Social Impact Mean?
What does this mean on a functional level? Social impact is an awareness of how your company interacts with the world around itself. Recognizing that your business does not exist in a void, you can see the many moving pieces surrounding and supporting your company. You are also then able to see how your work interacts and impacts the broader community.
Many companies are choosing to make social impact a core part of their business. They want their work to benefit the world, whether locally or globally. Business owners are choosing to publicly align with social grassroots movements and charities with actions that directly support those causes.
On the other hand, companies see their impact from an environmental standpoint. They work to ensure their carbon footprint is as small as possible. These actions may not be public knowledge but are a way a company aligns its morals with the structure of its business.
For example, you might consider the source for your supplies and materials. Are the companies in your supply chain paying their workers a living wage? Does this source have an ethical approach to their carbon footprint? Does that company openly have an awareness of their social impact by engaging with charitable organizations or social programs that benefit communities?
You can make social impact part of your organization. Start by choosing only source materials from companies that align to a certain degree of social and environmental impact.
Directly engaging with social movements that support communities in need is another way to let your company be a source for good. More businesses are waking up to the responsibility they have to their communities. There are many ways you can make social impact a part of your company.
Social Impact and Corporate Social Responsibility: What’s the Difference?
The notion of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Social Impact are two terms that seem pretty linked in terms of their intention. Corporate Social Responsibility is often employed by more prominent companies to “give back” in gestures that support their broader community. However, the choices around the functional structures of their company will not be affected by their CSR choices.
In short, a company may openly support a fundraiser or initiative for a community in need. Still, it will not be analyzing how their supply chain may, in fact, be contributing to the problem their fundraiser is supporting. There is an intention to do good, which anyone can applaud. But generally, CSR could be seen as an opportunity for great PR and nothing more in some circumstances.
For example, some large corporate companies support Pride season by selling rainbow-themed merchandise every June. However, the rest of the year, they show no interest or support for the issues affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. The company may also actively support anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation through political contributions while taking advantage of the marketing opportunity that Pride season presents.
On the surface, it may seem like they choose to align with a disenfranchised population and show support. But a deeper look shows that their gesture is only skin-deep.
With Social Impact, a company will make intentional choices with many parts of its business model. This will ensure a positive impact (e.g., sourcing from smaller companies, choosing to support minority businesses, etc.). The company’s ethics are infused throughout. They want to ensure that their integrity is expressed in each facet of their company (as is possible).
Additionally, they may have more significant contributions that directly support causes, such as charity fundraisers. That will not be the only way that the principles of Social Impact are expressed in their company, though.
How To Get Started Incorporating Social Impact to Your Organization
Making a choice to incorporate social impact into your organization does not have to be an all-or-nothing affair. Each company is uniquely able to contribute meaningfully to the world around them. It will look different for each organization.
You don’t have to re-organize your business overnight, but you can consider one small step to get started. Here are some ideas for inspiration:
- Involvement with grassroots efforts for social justice
- Fundraising events for local charities
- In-kind donations to shelters, charitable events, communities in need
- Sustainability programs at your workplace
- Paid volunteer work for employees
- Paid days off for employees like Election Day and Juneteenth
- Assessing environmental impact
- Sourcing from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color-owned businesses
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