3 ways to make social impact run through your business, not around it


Sherry will be hosting a session on this topic at Boost on April 15 – with Uber’s Eugenie Teasley. Secure your ticket now.

Until recently, my entire career had been in the tech industry. From inside, executives launched a rallying cry that told employees they weren’t just there to create software – they made the world a better place.

These ideas would often be delivered through a corporate objective, a corporate responsibility statement, or sometimes they would be simplified to a wish to put customers before (or at least next to) shareholders.

As an employee, these great ambitions made it possible to differentiate fulfilling workplaces from others. But now I have a hard time finding a company that does not have made some sort of bold statement about solving real-world social and environmental problems, besides making a profit.

As a result, corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become a trivialization, and the “ moonshot ” of a company may be indistinguishable from the following. How do companies overcome this? I believe the only way to truly balance goal and profit is to marry both.

In other words, we need to think about how to make the impact work. by companies, not around their.

Build real impact

The reality is that doing this, especially in a large corporation, means overcoming a lot of mental hurdles. For one thing, most companies weren’t founded with a social mission in mind, like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s aside.

But to create real impact in any organization, you have to rethink your core business: examine with a new perspective who you serve, what you offer them, and the potential positive or negative externalities that this creates in the world. And the more established a business, the harder it is to do.

Additionally, conventional wisdom has led us to believe the myth that impact and profit are at odds and therefore must be separated (step into a world of .orgs and corporate foundations). What follows is that one part of the business is making money and the other is spending it. Usually in the form of donations that make consumers feel like they are giving back.

As a consultant, my job is to help make that change for companies like Uber, whose global social impact we codified last year, as their company grappled with the realities of the pandemic..

So how do you create a system that allows impact to be felt on your business? As a brand, a consultant interacting with a client, or something in between? Here are three ways we approached this with Uber, and ways you can approach it in your own work:

1. Sit at the intersection of many viewpoints

Although we do more and more impact work, we are not a pure social impact consultancy. We stand at the intersection of business, marketing, branding, social impact and, of course, a larger culture.

When we think about the possible impact that a business can have, we start from the heart of that business. What are the unique skills that made this business successful? What are the vulnerabilities on the horizon? What are the real challenges facing leadership?

This leads to an approach that is both commercial and cultural – find the movements that help both To advance. For Uber, that meant going beyond just monetary donations to see what the core business could do to help. What could Uber’s incredible operational and logistics engine and its global reach offer people?

2. Start where you are with practical solutions

One of the most interesting parts of working with a great company is thinking about the massive resources and scale with which that company can affect the world. We know that consumers More and more expect companies to solve the world’s problemsSo it would be easy to dive in and recommend the best and the best ideas.

But every business is unique in how it perceives social impact and where it (and its leaders) are along the way. So we level.

What are the right actions for a business today? Where could it end up going? For a company like Uber, that meant resetting the benchmarks they were comparing themselves to and setting their own standard for successful impact.

3. Seize the momentum by placing it at the heart of all the actions of the company

As we’ve all learned, businesses can’t predict where the world will go next. But they need to find the right time, the right place, and the action that gives them the momentum and enthusiasm to do more. Because barriers are largely organizational and mental, internal momentum is essential to impacting the business.

For Uber, a pivot came in the spring of 2020, when they encouraged people to stay home and donates $ 10 million in meals and rides to people in need. This put the Social Impact team in the driver’s seat of the company’s global response and has kept it there ever since.

The standards for a business’s impact will continue to change and the stakes will rise as consumers expect more. The only way to ensure that your business (or your customers) does not fall victim to the commodification of social impact, to truly sustain your impact strategy, is to place it at the heart of the business strategy.

The above approaches can serve as a starting point to make this continuous cycle of assessment and decision-making active and dare I say impactful.

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Published March 30, 2021 – 09:45 UTC


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