We are in the midst of purpose disruption. Technology shook up which businesses captured whole market segments. Now purpose is creating a new wave of challenger businesses, and companies failing to adapt will find it harder and harder to grow their customer base, and their talent base.
The numbers are clear. 88% of consumers say they would buy a product with a social and/or environmental benefit, 66% would be willing to pay more for sustainable goods and 67% said that corporate social responsibility was either essential or a strong preference when it came to choosing the right employer.
We need to get serious about social impact. The status of purpose to the public, and to shareholders, is rapidly reaching the same category as financial performance.
Questions you should be asking yourself:
It’s immediately clear that not even the smallest of businesses would. So how come, when it comes to purpose, are we doing it like this?
If social impact were financial impact, we would be running multinational corporations with all the process sophistication of a freelance cupcake business…
Social impact can take a leaf out of accountancy’s book. Simple online software can help capture the data, with a clear audit trail tied to individuals – just like expense tracking, and reconcile it against projects or strategic strands – just like budget lines.
It can even go further and covert it from input data like hours spent volunteering to outcome data like young people supported into employment, or miles cycled to work into carbon saved.
If we track our impact with software, we can create a near real time view of performance. Measurement can feed into management, allowing us to make decisions throughout the year on our social impact investments and initiatives to ensure we hit targets.
But if spreadsheets do the job, why change?
Put simply, because we don’t want to end up with a Patisserie Valerie of social impact on our hands. Organisations are already claiming huge amounts of social value but with nothing there to back it up. Even audits are often caveated as working with the data provided.
This becomes more important than ever given the Social Value Act. influencing the flow of billions in public expenditure. Yet few commissioners can say for certain that what they’re commissioning is actually happening on the ground.
Consumer spending, and investing, is moving in the same way. Last year, the UK spent over £83bn on ethical goods with the continued growth driven by increased environmental concern. Similarly across investment markets, ethical investments grew by 6.3% in 2017.
This could be because the expectations consumers have with corporations have come a long way from historic profit centric models. Today 91% of people want to see businesses do more than just make profit.
That’s why it’s time to ditch the spreadsheets. It’s time to get real, and real time, about recording and reporting impact.