The Impact of Businesses Implementing Cause-Related Social Impact Partnerships
Let’s begin by thinking about this……new research conducted from the Committee for Economic Development of Australia concluded that more than three-quarters of consumers supported businesses where their leaders spoke out on social and environmental issues.
Times have certainly changed in the business world. We know that business innovation today is trending towards focusing on the impact that brands can have on society, as much as it is focused on traditional metrics such as economic performance, and the development of new products and services. Customers are becoming more dubious than ever of a brand’s integrity and its intentions, which has placed businesses at cross-roads to rethink strategy towards implementing social impact partnerships that actually make a difference in the world, in order to build trust and loyalty with customers.
Over the past several decades we have experienced major technological advances which have in turn empowered consumers with the ability to easily and freely access information about brands through the interwebs (the good, the bad and the ugly!) This has in turn created a culture in society of expected transparency of how businesses conduct themselves and the impact their manufacturing and distribution processes has on our communities, animals and the environment.
This major shift in society has seen sustainability in business activities and operations being transformed into what is now an essential component, allowing organisations to succeed and thrive. This is reflected by an increased number of studies that have demonstrated that businesses who adopt sustainable strategies and partnership practices dramatically improve their competitiveness and experience greater medium and long-term economic results.
Businesses that adopt the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide their path in developing a social purpose can benefit from new market opportunities and improved engagement with customers and stakeholders. Social impact activities or projects deliver outcomes that are effective, efficient and sustainable, and address not just narrow, profit-focussed benefits, but fundamentally contribute to addressing complex issues ranging from place-based disadvantage, youth disengagement, obesity, and domestic violence, to climate change, loss of biodiversity, our ageing population, and inequality (just to name a few).
While many of these issues have been written off as market failures and largely left to charitable interventions to rectify, it is increasingly clear that they require the attention of governments, civil society, and commercial sectors alike in order to build strong futures for all. How brands can contribute to addressing these issues involves fostering new cause-related partnerships. In short, it means a business not only understanding their financial impact, but their social impact.
The concept of value and purpose is shifting. The growth of social impact investment, conscious investors, stakeholders, purpose-driven customers and employees demand both financial and social returns on investment. It is important now more than ever for businesses to introduce purpose-led business models that blend social and commercial value creation.
Social impact partnerships are concerned with problem solving that generates value and contributes to growth. In the face of global challenges (such as growing inequality, ageing populations, climate change and declines in biodiversity) both the nature and direction of innovation is shifting towards a more mission-oriented approach. This means businesses are increasingly being seen as contributors and leaders to purpose-led partnerships that seek to respond to the challenges facing us both locally and globally.
In this relatively new realm of social impact, organisations need to explore the range of challenges that are starting to frame innovation ‘missions’ and develop social or impact projects (considering any sector and any relevant context that makes sense to their goals) that can potentially contribute to better outcomes and achieving the goals of the mission. Organisations may decide to focus on the goals and challenges associated with the 17 United Nations SDGs or they may choose to explore a challenge that directly relates to their own context.
The SDG’s present a set of significant challenges faced by societies, governments, our environment and other businesses around the world that provide opportunity for organisations to jump on board by aligning their own impact goals and cause-related partnerships to make a positive impact to the world, at the same time as promoting trust in their brand and economic growth in their business.