Social Impact: Going Hybrid

Big Thinks Magazine April 2021 Hybrid Social Impact Alicia Alfonso

When should an organization actually start thinking about the impact they are having in their selected space, community, and the world? The answer… immediately. The world is no longer split between social impact and non-social impact. We’ve entered a time when every organization, government, and citizen is expected to improve the world around them in one way or another. So if you are that visionary putting into motion your ideas and are beginning to build your business, don’t forget to think through how your organization will also improve the world and ecosystem around it.

So what does this hybrid approach look like? Well, simply put, any and all organizations are expected to make the world a better place in some way. It used to be that this responsibility fell to non-profits. Big businesses and corporations would sometimes step into this space by creating foundations and corporate responsibility arms, but this was the exception. Now, we are no longer looking to non-profits, corporate foundations, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments to ask, “what good is this company doing.” We now expect it and even demand it. Every visionary looking to become an entrepreneur will need to factor this into their business plan as they navigate starting their business. 

The social responsibility expectations have elevated even further in the last several years as the political tensions in the United States escalate. Businesses are having to align themselves with charities and activist groups, and oftentimes not by choice. Citizens are demanding that organizations be involved in what the community deems important. One large example of this is in my current home state of Georgia. In 2019, film companies and actors threatened to pull filming from the state as the “Abortion Law” was making its way through the state government. This is an example of businesses using their influence and money to sway change. And most recently following the pivot in the state’s political alignment, huge corporations like Coca-Cola and Delta have spoken out against the new voting changes that have just been signed into law. Many organizations were called on and called out by the communities that they consider their “home base.”

So, you may be thinking this is all well and good, but you are probably curious about the numbers? Or at least I would be, so I’ll share them with you. According to research conducted by the Yale Initiative on Sustainable Finance, the value of economic transitions around the world is huge: roughly $97 trillion. By prioritizing sustainable and social impact initiatives, you also increase employee engagement (up to 9%) and employee retention (up to 5%). Reducing employee turnover in itself is a huge cost saving to any organization. Additionally, stronger sales are inevitable (up to 7% according to studies) as well as increased customer satisfaction as organizations are found to feel better about purchasing from socially conscious organizations. There is an inherent business value from standard business practices positively affecting their community or planet.

And speaking of data, just a friendly reminder that you have to be able to back up your efforts. In a world that is changing rapidly and where hybrid organizations are the expectation, you need proof supporting the impact that you’ve made. These efforts don’t have to be large-scale or complicated. Just remember to track your actions from day one. 

I’ll close with something that tends to bother me on a personal note as I navigate this hybrid world. With these hybrid companies being the expectation in Corporate America, are we trading sincere concern for the world’s well-being for a bottom line? The answer is ‘yes’. The data is available backing up this being a smart business decision. There is definitely a trade-off as we move into this new space and way of doing business. I choose to see this as a win for the Earth and its citizens. While the intentions might not be completely pure, everyone knows there is validation in “faking it until you make it”. In this case, faking it leads to a healthier and happier world.

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