The COVID-19 pandemic has – and will continue to have – a significant impact on the world. It is also shining a light on how closely the world is interconnected and how businesses seldom operate in isolation. As cliché as it’s starting to sound, it’s true that we’re “all in this together.” And that’s why it is so important for businesses to lean into connecting with the outside world through social impact initiatives.
When you’re a socially conscious, high performing company, it means that you treat your stakeholders better. Because of these actions, your suppliers are happier to do business with you. Employees are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay. Your company is more welcome in its community and your customers are more satisfied and loyal. The most conscious companies give more, and they get more in return.
Companies that follow the ideals of social impact are poised to thrive. In fact, according to Conscious Capitalism co-founder Raj Sisodia in his book Firms of Endearment, socially conscious organizations outperform the S&P 500 by 11x and Good to Great Companies by 3x. These high-performing organizations have the following in common: clearly stated higher purpose, generosity of compensation, quality of customer service, investment in their communities, and focus on efforts to minimize negative impact on the environment.
Ben and Jerry’s “linked prosperity” model is a good example of an inter-connected ecosystem whose goal is to create value for all. It positions itself as unconventional and quirky, with its fun flavor names, and it has strong sustainability credentials as the first ice cream company to use Fair Trade Certified ingredients. It optimizes the entire system and delivers long-term profits and shareholder value. The company’s motto is, “We make the best possible ice cream in the best possible way.”
The LEGO Group’s commitment to helping children learn through play is an example of clarity of a higher purpose. This type of servant leadership has earned them the title of the most reputable brand in the world. Product development and marketing decisions are looked at through the lens of how they will impact the health and development of children first and foremost. And during this time of global turmoil the LEGO Group continues to deliver on its brand purpose, with the support of major retailers who have put LEGO sets on their essential supplier lists.
The value of social impact is seen not only from the consumer’s point of view, but also through a lens of talent and recruiting. Research indicates that Millennials are more likely to choose purpose-driven work above a less purpose-driven role with a higher salary. When public health officials relax social distancing measures, and companies who were forced to lay off millions of Americans during the pandemic return to hiring, there may be a fierce battle for the best available talent. Consciously driven organizations are likely to find that they’ll have an advantage from an employee recruiting and retention perspective.
The inescapable conclusion is that it pays to care widely and deeply. But let there be no mistake about it: in order to collect these dividends, you must make the right investments. A successful purpose-driven journey may require significant organizational change management. Most change efforts fail because of a lack of understanding of the dynamics of organizational change. Organizations behave like a biological system; they achieve balance by resisting agents of intervention or interruption.
If your business wants to introduce new social impact initiatives, a good place to start is to collaborate with an expert who can help you examine your existing market intelligence infrastructure. What insights do you have from previous research investments that may help inform decisions to strengthen your company’s purpose-driven approach, and what additional intelligence is needed? Once you start answering these questions, you can develop a holistic – and a well thought out – change management strategy (with each component having a clearly defined objective) and a rollout approach that will get you well on your way toward delivering meaningful impact on all of your brand’s stakeholders.