An organisation’s social impact describes the overall positive contributions and changes they make within society. In recent years, the trend towards transparency and accountability in business has led to the growth of those looking to accurately measure their social impact to illustrate their environmental and social credentials.
In this article, we provide an overview of how businesses can start to measure their social impact and tips for getting started. If you’d like to drive positive change through sustainable business practices, simply get in touch with our friendly team here at SustainIt for help getting started. We believe that people, profit and the planet can’t ever be mutually exclusive, and that the right decisions have a huge impact on all three.
The importance of measuring social impact
Measuring social impact is becoming a vital component for all organisations. From international charities to local businesses, there is a clear trend towards understanding how any entity impacts other people and the planet.
Measuring social impact helps investors, employees, and consumers understand the true value you bring to the world. It helps separate organisations focused primarily on profit, and those that genuinely try and make positive contributions in every aspect of the supply chain. It also helps add quantifiable and measurable sustainability goals, creating benchmarks and clear objectives, in contrast to the wave of businesses claiming to do “good” but never actually proving it.
The complexities and subtle nuances of each and every organisation mean that measuring social impact needs careful planning and strategy. We outline some simple ways to get started below.
Social impact strategy
The first step in creating an effective social impact strategy is to be crystal clear on what the focus and mission is. Having vague goals and objectives means that is it very hard to attribute success or failure to them. Saying you want to “have a positive impact” is too subjective and consequently makes any reporting very difficult. In contrast, saying you want to “only use locally sourced materials by 2023” is much better. This can be measured and reported on within the business. This type of goal would likely bring with it an array of environmental and social benefits and help an organisation communicate their sustainability credentials.
Aligning your organisation with clear challenges facing local/global communities will ensure your social impact reporting resonates and inspires those who read them. As challenges facing organisations and societies constantly evolve, those who are adaptive and proactive in their social missions are likely to be the ones that consumers favour and admire.
You may also want to consider gaining insights to the questions and concerns customers have relating to your sector. Is waste high on their agenda? If so, this is likely a good place to start.
Data collection and analysis
Once you know what your goals and overriding social objectives are as an organisation, you need to collect data to illustrate how you are performing against such goals.
SustainIt manages, analyses and provides all the tools you need to accurately collect and report your sustainability data. From guiding you through the very best in EHS software and systems, to legislation and frameworks, we are perfectly positioned to streamline the whole process for you.
Our DataWise service helps extract quality data that you can trust, ensuring any conclusions drawn are accurate and reliable.
Data visualisation and communication
Data visualisation helps bring your data to life. It transforms complex data points into digestible chunks of information, that investors, employees and consumers can understand. This plays a vital role in how the success of your social impact is perceived.
As well as more formal reporting for investors, organisations should look to get creative with their data and communicate it in a way that resonates with their target audience. Clear and expressive visualisation should tell a story, and go beyond just reporting on the data. This can be leveraged in marketing campaigns and used to demonstrate the true value your organisation brings to the market. This can be extremely powerful and help support your brand positioning as a socially responsible, ethical business.
Review and action
Successful organisations will review the data, goals and overall performance of an organisation to provide the foundation for future goal setting and objectives. New challenges may arise and need addressing, which may benefit from rigorous evaluations of previous sustainability reports to create positive action moving forward.
Reviewing progress against social impact targets should also be a regular occurrence. Instead of an annual activity, this should be engrained into the day-to-day of every process and touchpoint within a business.
Sustainability software helps manage this and provides a user-friendly interface for keeping on top of social impact performance. This also ensures any goals that aren’t currently being met can be addressed in the hope the organisation can achieve them by the year’s end.