Search Results For: sustainability

Impact & Supply Chain Social Sustainability

In an ever globalizing world in which products are sourced from numerous tiers of suppliers from across the world, it is a very important consideration for a company to synergize and stregthen their impact within their supply chain.

In fact, local and national governments are becoming more active in demanding social responsibility in supply chains a requirement, such as California’s Transparency in Supply Chains Act, which requires retailers and manufacturers doing business in the state to report publicly on efforts to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labor. High profile tragedies in countries like Bangladesh are bringing more media scrutiny to supply chain issues. Investors are recognizing that weak social and environmental standards in supply chains can lead to financial and liability risks for the companies where they invest. Beyond this, a rising class of engaged, socially conscious aspirational customers are forcing companies to expand their sourcing paradigm.

There’s a strong business case for investing in sustainable supply chain programs. According to Ceres’ 2014 study, 58% of publicly traded U.S. companies set clear social and environmental standards for suppliers, up from 43% in 2012. Moreover, 34% now monitor supplier performance, up from 25% in 2012. Successful firms work collaboratively with vendors. Rather than simply auditing them, they build long term relationships and business contracts which make suppliers less likely to be tempted by short-cuts.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 6.20.12 AMThe first most high profile example of “relational sourcing” came in the 1970s, when Toyota started outperforming American automobile companies by producing cars with far fewer defects than in that decade’s dominant models. A major cause for this increase in standard of quality was the long-term, open-ended contracts that Toyota had entered into with its designated suppliers. These contracts incentivized suppliers to ensure quality. Because of their success, relational sourcing became an established best practice in a wide variety of sectors, from food to furniture.

In addition to established corporations like Apple, Philips, H&M, and IKEA using relational sourcing in their value chains, a number of innovative start-ups like Everlane, Honest By and Zady Fashions are taking this approach further by marketing socially responsible sourcing as their competitive advantage.

While third party international organizations are still in the process of developing sustainability and social metrics that can be applied broadly, businesses must prioritize which metrics are right for their purposes. These impacts may be determined by proximity to supply chain, geographic proximity or financial factors. In addition, the United Nations and International Labor Organization (ILO) have developed documents that outline basic expectations for how workers will be treated; ILO’s eight core conventions address forced labor, child labor, discrimination, freedom of association and collective bargaining.

The Institute for Supply Chain Management offers the following 10 criteria to look at when trying to improve a supply chain’s social performance:

  1. Anti-Corruption
  2. Diversity and Inclusiveness — Workforce and Supply Base
  3. Environment
  4. Ethics and Business Conduct
  5. Financial Integrity and Transparency
  6. Global Citizenship
  7. Health and Safety
  8. Human Rights
  9. Labor Rights
  10. Sustainability

A move to supply chain social sustainability is an important consideration in an ever more complex business world. To learn more about implementing successful social strategies for your business, please contact Digital Union.

Maggie & Hector

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Next Gen Philanthropy

As Millennials continue demand social change as employees and consumers, new avenues of affecting social change have emerged. We’ve written about impact investing and its potential to increase capital for innovative solutions across a range of asset classes and geography. We’ve also written about FinTech, and its potential to bridge the gap between finance and philanthropy. There is the rise of “sustainability,” which is about more than doing no harm, and gamification-inspired, digital marketing efforts growing social impact. As corporate social responsibility flowers into these subfields, philanthropy is also growing into a new avatar as a bridge, a unifier and enabler of social impact.

Microfinance in the US is a perfect example of how closely philanthropy is linked with impact investing – sometimes known as impact philanthropy. While microfinance pioneers in emerging markets have created a self-sustaining model of peer-to-peer lending networks, usury laws in the US prohibit high interest rates. Using philanthropy money, groups such as Accion U.S. Network and Grameen America are able to support microloans in the US while keeping interest rates low and providing access to micro capital for the country’s 9 million underbanked.

Screen Shot 2016-07-06 at 4.00.38 PMExamples of the support between the worlds of sustainable technology and philanthropy are abound. Venture philanthropy, also known as angel or enterprise philanthropy, describes models that go far beyond the writing of checks and often take a deep and long-term view of the what is means to invest in solving global and/or local problems. Husk Power Systems, a startup based in India, would not be able to scale if the Shell Foundation didn’t fund the company with philanthropic funding. Today, Husk provides power to thousands of rural Indians using technology that generates electricity using rice husks, a waste product from a staple food in the region.

Philanthropy has also embraced the giving of time and talent in recent years. Corporations host charitable giving programs and fundraisers to help employees share their skills with recipients who can value them. At LUSH, the staff convert shop fronts into campaigning centers and sales associates into activists around causes that employees believe in from animal testing to marriage equality. This active involvement by employees and their willingness to donate time and talent is breathing new life into philanthropy.

In its new form as enabler of social impact enterprises and technological innovation, philanthropy is also being reshaped by Millennials. Given their social and digital penchant, they are adding voice and the power of their network to the causes they care about – the Love Has No Labels campaign from The Ad Council aims to identify implicit bias in our everyday lives and work towards eliminating it. The campaign has received 100 million+ shares on Facebook and over 52 million views on YouTube, making it the most viral public service announcement in history. This power of using the digital medium to engage actively and using networks to fuel awareness and affect social impact and change is unique of Millennials and is helping philanthropy to re-invent itself.

In our hometown of Austin, the Austin Community Foundation is joining many other philanthropic giving institutions to galvanize the idea of impact investing, a type of investment structured to generate both a financial return and a measurable social return.  At DU, we are strong proponents of engaging in positive social impact through all avenues and while keeping all relevant stakeholders engaged – come and see how we can help you move the needle from traditional to innovative philanthropy!

Maggie & Hector

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Gamification Inspiring Social Impact

Just as the digital age is transforming and disrupting industries, gamification with its in-built digital and social components holds promise in changing individual behavior and solving social problems.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 10.23.00 AMApplying game-design elements in non-game contexts is known as gamification. Gamification attempts to improve user or “player” engagement and learning, thereby seeking to make the journey to the end goal more enjoyable. A popular example of gamification would be Fitbit which uses leaderboards and badges as rewards, motivation, and incentives to ultimately help users become more physically active.

Gamification has been used most successfully in the fields of marketing and education. In marketing, gamification is widely used for customer retention. For example, in 2010 Starbucks gave custom Foursquare badges to individuals who checked in at multiple locations and offered discounts to people who checked in most frequently at individual stores. While the purpose of the game was to keep customers coming back to the store, the incentives and game-like feel of the process were its hallmark of success.

In the field of education, gamification is a powerful concept. The Institute of Play and the New York City Department of Education have created a new public school in New York City with a curriculum developed collaboratively by teachers, game designers and curriculum designers. The curriculum design mimics the design principles of games by framing every piece of the curriculum as a mission that involves game strategies such as role-playing and simulation. By reimagining traditional curriculum as games, educators can engage, stretch and challenge their students’ imaginations and skill levels like never before.

Gamification is also an interesting and growing model in the social impact realm. Crowdsourcing games for donation platforms such as FoldIt and CrowdRise are attracting players and raising millions of dollars for non-profits worldwide. Within the sphere of environmental sustainability, RecycleBank is helping consumers to reduce landfill trash by awarding points and offering competitive challenges which incentivize players to remain engaged. In an effort to tackle world hunger, FreeRice feeds the hungry by creating a quiz game where each right answer buys 10 grains of rice for someone in need, paid for by the site sponsors. In the case of each of these social impact projects, gamification is creating awareness, attracting individuals who may not typically engage in social impact missions, and ultimately creating win-win scenarios with global ripple effects.

The ecosystem around the gamification is also progressing to meet its bright future. Organizations such as the Knight Foundation, Games for Change and Impact Games grant funding and incubator support to social impact missions that use gamification. Similarly, conferences such as the GSummit, and eLearning Guild convene experts, practitioners and gamers to share best practices and collaborate on breakthroughs. The future of gamification appears as far-reaching as the future of digital technology itself – everything can be turned into play!

At Digital Union, we support all things social – the power of social media, the hyper-social millennial generation, and especially, the power of gaming – an inherently social tool, to help solve social problems.

Maggie& Hector

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The Evolution of Measuring Social Impact

Measuring social impact is a vital component of the growing social impact ecosystem. As a social impact entity, measured results are critical to demonstrate success, attract investors and receive funding. Impact investors today range from those who want to see measurable social returns, those who want their portfolios to align with certain principles, and those who simply want to limit their exposure to systemic problems such as carbon regulations and water scarcity. Just as each of these investors can be placed on a continuum of commitment to impact-based investing, there is a parallel continuum of evaluating tools that measure social impact to help these investors in their decision-making.

In fact, tools and frameworks to capture social impact’s value are growing almost as fast as social impact businesses themselves—and each of them targets a specific segment of investor. The Foundation Center website features over 100+ resources, with frameworks ranging from those designed for niche segments such as Planet Rating’s GIRAFE tool which evaluates the performance and institutional risk of microfinance organizations, to good housekeeping seals such as Better Business Bureau’s B Wise Giving Alliance seal for organizations that meet BBB’s code of best business practices.

The most widely accepted heavyweights in the alphabet soup of impact measurement are the GRI, CDP, and the DJSI. Each of these tools relies on self-reporting survey data and covers an extensive breadth of information. It is also the most frequently used set of measurements – the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) for instance, is used by over 22,431 organizations worldwide in conjunction with company-generated sustainability reports.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 11.11.44 AMFor investors and organizations looking for a more simplified and familiar approach to measurement, there’s the Global Impact Investing Ratings System powered by B Impact which translates the social and environmental impact of companies into ratings similar to Morningstar or S&P Credit. Or the International Finance Corporation’s Development Outcome Tracking System which identifies standard performance goals indicators and measures the rate of achievement in assigned categories against certain benchmarks and timelines.

Consumers today are more environmentally and socially conscious than ever before. On the retail side, there’s the consumer focused The Good Guide, which helps buyers choose individual products by rating their environmental impact, health and social responsibility on a scale of 1 to 10. The site has over 120,000 products listed and has a mobile app so you can make decisions in-store, as well as a toolbar to help you navigate as you shop on the web. For a side by side comparison, you can use JustMeans Insights to measure a company’s social impact against its competitors.

Impact that cannot be translated into numbers can often be relayed into a case study. Outcome Mapping by the International Development Research Centre offers a methodology that combines qualitative and quantitative approaches. HCT Group for example, is a social enterprise providing public transportation in the UK. On their website, they indicate “you can find out more about our social impact through the stories of those who use our services” with links to Robert’s Story or Susie’s story. With quotes, pictures and anecdotes from those who have benefited from the work of the organization, these case studies are a potent, creative way to demonstrate success.

In fact, at Digital Union, we find this win-win approach to be the great way of exhibiting our leadership while also providing additional brand value to our clients. Come and see how we can help you fuse profit with purpose and measurement with marketing!

Maggie & Hector

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CSR 2.0: Enabling Social Innovations through Corporate Social Responsibility

Happy New Year! In our first blog of the year, we want to highlight a paradigm shift that is taking place within corporations, which has potential to grow opportunities for social impact and innovation in 2016. This change is the evolution of corporate social responsibility (CSR) within organizations.

When Michael Porter coined the term “shared value” in 2011 and talked about doing well and doing good, US corporations jumped on the bandwagon to create corporate social responsibility programs that published glossy sustainability reports with infographics on carbon footprints and volunteer programs. In its new form, corporate social responsibility has emerged as a boardroom mandate with committed stakeholders throughout the organization with synergies across human resource departments, philanthropy and even marketing divisions (let us call it CSR 2.0). In its new avatar, we expect CSR 2.0 to catalyze social innovation widely in 2016 and beyond.

Millennials are demanding genuine and effective social responsibility of the organizations in which they are investing their efforts. GE’s “Get Yourself a World Changing Job” videos capture the idea succinctly. As a result, recruiters in HR are becoming strong stakeholders in the internal functioning of corporations, as it helps them to recruit and retain talent. This long-term talent retention perspective of CSR 2.0 not only underlies a strong business case for CSR programs, it also begins to direct the quality and focus of the programs themselves. Going forward, we expect to see a burgeoning virtuous cycle in corporations fueling powerful social innovations and sustainable impact.

Philanthropy, the good ol’ doing good platform, is also responding positively to this emerging situation. As CSR 2.0 is evolving, the way foundations are allocating their resources is changing. From traditional responsive philanthropy such as grants and matching dollars, foundations are beginning to engage in strategic interventions, geared to achieve results that also align with the company’s business interests. For example, the Amgen Foundation has committed more than $60 million to advance science education by funding innovative, evidence-based programs in high schools Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 1.47.08 PMand universities. The program aims to spur students’ interest in science, deepen scientific literacy and grow the company’s future talent pool. As foundations become more influential in the CSR 2.0 mandate, companies are starting to view their philanthropic dollars, resources and expertise as contributors to potential social breakthroughs. In future, we can expect to see transformative innovation underwritten by corporate foundations.

The veil between marketing and corporate responsibility is being lifted, revealing emerging corporate signature programs capable of gaining momentum. These programs are significant, long-term investments around social issues that also impact business’ interests. Unilever’s Lifebuoy (soap) brand for example, has adopted Help a Child Reach Five initiative to combat country’s chronic high infant mortality rates. It emphasizes the need to adopt hand-washing hygiene in India. India has the highest number of child deaths from diarrhea and pneumonia globally, with 609,000 children dying each year before their 5th birthday. By emphasizing hand washing at five key occasions in a day, the program helps prevent child mortality and the spread of disease, while gaining customers and increasing the demand for its Lifebuoy soap—a longstanding product from the earliest era of Unilever. The popularity of such signature programs, and the competitive need to differentiate, promises social innovations with impact.

Large corporations are not typically associated with social innovations. The promise of CSR 2.0 however, with its new internal champions and widespread organizational benefits, will catalyze social innovation in 2016 and onwards. We look forward to connecting with you in 2016!

Maggie & Hector

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Your Cell Phone at the Center of Social Responsibility

In the Power and Purpose blog, we spend a lot of time talking about high-level trends in the social impact spaScreen Shot 2015-12-02 at 3.45.02 PMce and what’s being done in industry. However, there are many simple actions that you can take, with the power in the palm of your hands through your cell phone, to make social impact a bigger part of your decision making as a consumer.

One of these simple actions is downloading particular apps to your cell phone. There are many innovative companies out there creating wonderful solutions to end poverty, climate change, animal cruelty and many other critical global issues.

In this blog, we’re going to outline a mere five great apps that stress socially responsible actions, yet the list is much more expansive.

  1. Good On You – Apple and Android

Good on You is an app developed in Australia that helps shoppers choose brands that have a positive impact on people, animals and the planet. It allows people to make informed purchases through information regarding the environmental, labor and animal protection standards of major fashion brands.

  1. SeeClickFix – Apple and Android

SeeClickFix allows people to use GPS technology to improve their communities. Essentially, you capture picture of potholes, graffiti, or other problems with infrastructure in your city, geotag it, and the app will document the issue and report it to your local government. Hundreds of cities and municipalities across America have now signed up with SeeClickFix.

  1. Spoora – Android

Spoora is an instant-messaging platform that allows users to redistribute part of app advertising revenues towards social-civil organizations and NGOs. Users collect “spooris” currency for messages or actions they take on the app and then are able to exchange their spooris for real dollar donations to charities and NGOs of their choice.

  1. Energy Consumption Analyzer – Android

Energy Consumption Analyzer allows you to track your energy consumption over time. By periodically entering readings from your meter, the app calculates the average normalized rate of consumption per hour, day, week, or month (between two readings) and draws a graph showing the consumption rate over time.

  1. Seafood Watch –Apple and Android

Seafood Watch helps you choose ocean-friendly seafood at your favorite restaurants and stores. The app allows you to learn more about the sustainability of the seafood you eat, get recommendations for seafood and sushi, and locate local businesses that serve sustainable seafood. By using this app you can help reduce overfishing while still enjoying seafood.

These following three sites are not technically apps that are designed for phones, but they are still useful tools that you can use online to make an impact.

  1. 80,000 Hours

80,000 Hours is an online career guide that helps people make career choices that will lead to the most impact on the world. The company does in-depth research into how graduates can make the biggest difference possible with their careers, both through overall career choice and within a given field.


Freerice is a non-profit website that allows people to donate to charity in a fun and educational way. Users play vocabulary games, and with each correct answer they win a small amount of rice that will be donated to a hungry person in need.

  1. aVoid

aVoid is a browser plugin that helps users avoid products that are linked to child labor. Once you’ve installed the plugin, when you’re shopping online, all products that are made with child labor will be blocked out. It works with major online shops such as Target, Google and Amazon, and works for those in the United States, France, Germany and the UK.

Technology is indeed an incredible tool! We hope you consider the myriad of ways you can use your technology tools to make impact decisions.

Maggie & Hector


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The Sharing Economy and Social Impact

The news today is filled with stories about the “sharing economy”; considerations on how it is transforming our approach to life, legalities, and both the positive and negative implications it has for employment sectors in the United States.

Put simply, the sharing economy is one in which both material and non-material resources are shared for the benefit of multiple individuals. With the use of modern technology, the sharing economy opens up the VentureBeatpossibility for informational, financial, natural, technological and many other forms of resources to be shared for the common good of all people. Famous examples of companies in the sharing economy are Uber, ClassPass and Airbnb.

According to a 2015  article, there are now 17 billion-dollar companies that are part of the sharing economy that provide jobs to 60,000 employees and have received over $15 billion in funding.

In a time with falling trust in the institutions of government and business, people are craving transparent human level interactions. In this environment, the sharing economy is allowing for new notions of trust to evolve.

The World Economic Forum sees the sharing economy as an opportunity to harness local and citizen-led innovations to create solutions like peer-to-peer networks that help meet the Sustainable Development Goals and allow for a significant role for impact investors.

Examples of these opportunities are many. One recent MIT study found that 95% of taxi rides within New York City that aren’t currently being shared—could be. The study also found that UberPool has the potential to reduce journey times by 30% as well as reduce congestion and traffic pollution.

Because of this opportunity, car sharing companies like Uber and Lyft have enormous potential for sustainability impact and would fit into the Circular Economy we discussed previously. In fact, Lyft was a finalist for the 2015 Circular Economy Digital Disruptor and the winner of this award was TradeShift, an open-source cloud platform that enables businesses to transform their supply chains from a cost-based to a value-based focus.

While the sharing economy does provide infinite possibilities for the betterment of humanity, it also presents almost as many challenges. Sharing economy companies are solving many environmental and societal probleScreen Shot 2015-11-18 at 5.22.48 PMms that governments also hope to solve, yet the companies usually do not have traditional employees and are therefore much more difficult to regulate. As such, chances for exploitation and marginalization become higher. The future may be one in which governments begin to act more like these companies and find collaborative solutions.

Sharing is based in empathy, equality, honesty, and trust. As mentioned in our “aspirationals” article about the new largest customer segment—transparency, humanity, abundance without waste, and contributing to the greater good are what are becoming most valued in the global marketplace. If a company can find a way to incorporate some form of sharing into their business, they can be well on their way to creating impact and reaping well-earned rewards.

Like what you read? Comments, questions or concerns?

Send us an email and let us know!

Maggie & Hector


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The Impact of the “Aspirationals”

At Digital Union, we’ve written at length about the Millennial generation and what their preferences and desires mean for the future of business. Yet from a marketing perspective, perhaps generations are not only defined by birthdays, but instead by common human experiences that shape the way we understand the world.

aspirationalsBuilding on four years of global insight from more than 22,000 respondents across 22 international markets, BBMG and partners at GlobeScan have revealed the Aspirational generation. Indeed, this Aspirational generation isn’t defined by age, but rather the desire for their actions to meet needs, have a positive impact on others, and connect them with an ideal or community that is bigger than themselves.

The comprehensive report notes that this group is defined by shared values and expectations that is to predicted to have even greater impact on the future of the world than the Millennials. The Aspirationals make up the majority of global consumers and are defined by “a love of style, social status and sustainability values.” The report predicts that the Aspirationals will “shift cultural norms and rewrite the rules of marketing.” More than any other segment, Aspirationals are defined by their love of shopping and the desire for their consumer experience to help improve society and their trust in global brands to authentically help improve the world.

BBMG found five key aspirations that are shared by Aspirationals when it comes to brand experiences:

  1. Abundance without waste: Aspirationals are redefining the idea of abundance, seeking more experiences in ways that use fewer resources and produce less waste. Aspirationals don’t necessarily want more material possessions – but rather more meaningful experiences.
  2. Truly As You Are: Good branding is no longer about perfection, but honesty. Aspirationals appreciate transparency more than anything else, which has led to the success of companies like Everlane and Chipotle publishing their supply chain information and software companies letting users test their products in beta.
  3. Get Closer: Enterprises are sourcing locally and working with small businesses making the human story as important as ever. With payment platforms like Venmo and Paypal, the power of people and possibility is being unleashed.
  4. All of It: Aspirationals want it all, they prefer having the freedom of fluid options to fixed answers, whether it’s brands that are shifting gender boundaries in their product offerings or the boundaries between work and the gym, from Zappos’ approach to employees to WeWork’s approach to the office.
  5. Do Some Good: Finally, and most relevant to our mission at Digital Union, Aspirationals believe that they have agency in making a change and will thus support companies that have more to offer than just a better product.

Companies that do well with Aspirationals give them the opportunity to live an attainable lifestyle and be a meaningful part of society. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Yelp allow users to boost overall brand power of companies while giving individuals agency in the interaction as well. Brands are no longer enough; Aspirationals seek a deeper purpose or lifestyle that they can be a part of. For brands planning a social or environmental impact strategy, this is very important to consider as 53% of Aspirationals say “they would purchase more products that are socially and environmentally responsible if it connected them to a community of peers who share their values and priorities, compared to 42% of the general population.”

The opportunity here is to create a customer base that finds community, meaning, agency and impact in your brand, rather than using a one-off strategy as a means to gain support. To explore how you can best start to build your own brand community reach out to Digital Union.

Maggie & Hector

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Social Impact Solutions and the Community at Large (CCIs)

Beyond the improvements to your employees’ engagement and the broad approval among potential customers that social impact initiatives can give your brand, social impact initiatives have many useful and essential applications in business. In fact, one of the ways many multinational organizations first succeeded at scaling and globalizing was through “Corporate Community Involvement” (CCI) that created hospitable environments for their expansions.

CCI can be defined as the way in which a company shares its resources with the community that it impacts. CCI strategies range from charitable donations without an expectation of a profit return to business and community partnerships that are integrated into a business strategy. In short, a CCI is a social impact initiative that directly targets the community a business is serving. In the digital age of crowd funding and social media, these actions can reach billions of people.

Classic successful examples of CCI are those of AT&T and McDonald’s. In the 1992 Watts Riots, when tremendous damage was caused to retail shops in South Central Los Angeles, all 60 McDonald’s franchises in the area were spared harm in large part due to company’s efforts in developing community relations through its Ronald McDonald houses. AT&T enjoyed success in expanding into Latin America after using its communications technology to assist in linking rural hospitals to national medical centers.

Screen Shot 2015-10-16 at 10.18.57 PMOn a smaller scale example, Pizza Ranch, a fast-casual pizza chain based out of Orange City, Iowa, has a weekly “community impact night” at a time of the week when business is often slow. At these impact nights, members of the local community bus tables to support a local cause, such as raising money for a class trip. Pizza Ranch donates the night’s tips in addition to 5 to 20 percent of the profits to local causes.

The strategy of using positive community involvement to boost sales is backed by research. In fact, according to a study by the Journal of Business Ethics, the more money that companies donated to a relief effort, the higher their 5-day sales were following the announcement of the donation. Similarly, a Boston College study of businesses that launched CCI initiatives found that the businesses subsequently experienced increases in sales, brand awareness, customer retention, performance on competitive bids and development of new markets.

While CCI is not a new concept, many businesses that undertake CCI initiatives still do not have a means to properly measure the community impact, assurance of the quality of their findings, or even the benefits of the initiatives to business. In previous blogs, we’ve outlined how to measure Social ROI, but here are additional tools that companies can use to measure the success of their CCIs specifically: (1) the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; (2) the Global Reporting Initiative; (3) London Benchmarking Group; (4) AccountAbility: AA1000Assurance Standard; (5) Business in the Community; and (6) World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

The Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College tracks the success of CCI through metrics measuring six areas: the corporate license or freedom to operate, customer relations and attraction/marketing, human resources, innovation in market and product development, reputational capital, financial performance and social investment.

Social impact strategies such as CCI can make a difference both for organizations and the communities they serve. Continue to follow Digital Union’s Power and Purpose Blog to learn more ways business and the global community can benefit from social impact.

Maggie & Hector

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SPARKing Employee Engagement through Social Impact Initiatives

In previous blogs, we’ve talked about how Millennials are soon becoming a large majority of the world’s workforce and their employment values are closely tethered to societal issues. In fact, Deloitte reported that 87% of Millennials believe that businesses should be measured by more than just financial performance, and a Forbes study noted that 58% of employees would take a 15% pay cut to work for a company with values closer to their own.

Rapid growth of technology and trade has made traditional sources of competitive advantage, such as financial capital, technology, and location, more accessible. Companies now need to integrate “softer” less tangible sources of competitive advantage that can differentiate them.

One way that companies can create a competitive advantage is by having a team of employees that are deeply committed to the company’s vision and core values. Rather than show up and maintain the status quo, employees who believe that they can make an external impact in communities and a difference inside their company, such as through intrapreneur programs, provide critical value and enthused employee engagement.

Setting the stage for employees to provide innovation and impact is a critical part of planning a social impact program and has many benefits for a company. In fact, some reports have demonstrateScreen Shot 2015-09-07 at 8.27.46 PMd that companies with the highest social engagement have the highest operating margin and that 75+% of employees want to be part of company’s giving and volunteering programs. Moreover, a study by Northwestern University reported that on average, employees who work for organizations that offer corporate citizenship are significantly more engaged than employees who work for organizations that don’t offer corporate citizenship activities.

Fusing employee engagement with impact also has other important benefits:

  • Internal marketing: For larger companies that may have negative press, social impact initiatives can help improve both the reputation of the company and the emotional attachment to its mission and core values by the employees working there. A paycheck may keep a person on the job physically, but it alone will not keep a person on the job emotionally.
  • Employee skill enhancement: Company-led social impact initiatives can expand your employees’ work related skillsets. For example, Keurig Green Mountain Coffee Roasters sends 20% of its full-time employees to impact initiatives on coffee farms in order to educate them about sourcing issues.
  • Connecting workers globally: Remote workers feel more connected to their company if involved in social impact initiatives, feeling that they are collaborating in a collective effort to make impact in the world with their co-workers, regardless of their job title or location.

Social impact initiatives are now essential to building quality employee engagement. When you create a working environment that fosters employee connection to impact initiatives, a company can differentiate as well as attract and retain a loyal, innovative team.

Want to find out more about how to SPARK employee engagement through social impact initiatives? Get in touch with us and learn more about how we can help you build a team of A-players!

Maggie & Hector

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