Many of us working in the responsible business and impact investment space can sometimes feel like the only reason we create impact reports, is to tell others how great we are…..just so that we can make more money.
There is some truth to that equation. Good impact reports help to engage an audience of supporters who can build on the outcomes of our work—and yes, help us become more profitable, so that we can we deliver greater financial and social outcomes. Employees are one of the most important audiences. They are our brand ambassadors, story tellers and doers. Employees can also be one of the hardest groups to engage when it comes to corporate responsibility.
So, we gathered a small group of sustainability practitioners as part of Asia P3 Hub’s inaugural Breakfast Conversation series to discuss the roadblocks to great impact reporting and share some success stories. Here’s what we learnt:
1. Alignment is key
Engagement flows when the community impact we are seeking to deliver aligns with our business and operational impact.
For example, Royal DSM, a global nutritional supplement manufacturer has partnered with Base of Pyramid Hub a Singapore based not for profit to launch 45 Rice. 45 Rice produces fortified rice that provides half the nutritional needs of the average person, helping to tackle widespread nutritional deficiency. This partnership completely aligns with one of Royal DSM’s key business priorities—to deliver sustainable and scalable solutions that tackle global challenges.
2. Digital media is KING
Visual imagery are key to engaging a large audience. Although EDMs and sustainability reports are still a necessary part of the reporting landscape, we need to embrace digital media to help translate those outcomes for a wider audience.
Philips for example spoke about how after struggling to create awareness of their health initiatives in the field, they created a video to tell the story about the impact of their efforts to reduce maternal mortality. This video is played in public areas around their corporate office and is on the Philip’s website and has led to a much greater employee awareness of this work.
3. Social media can be effective but only within the right parameters
Many corporates noted that an increasing number of employees wanted to own and share their CSR journey on social media. It’s therefore up to organisations to work with employees to use social media effectively to share their social values.
We shared the example of Levi’s Foundation, which ran an employee campaign to bring attention to Water<Less™, a new approach Levis has pioneered to reduce the amount of water used in the production process. Employees were asked to wear the same pair of jeans for a week without washing them as part of the #gowaterless campaign and to post their efforts on Instagram. The seven most stylish entries were then given $USD1000 to donate to a water charity of their choice. The result? More than 2,500 stories shared and countless liters of water saved.
Sounds great? Yes. But remember that you should not take on social media unless you have a clear policy around usage and are prepared to deal with the information and images that are shared. When these basics are in place, it can be an ideal way to quickly spread the story of your good work to internal and external audiences.
4. Involve your employees from the beginning
Co-creation is key to employee engagement. Invite employees to choose what projects to support and to help shape what that support should look like as well as how to evaluate.
For example, Standard Chartered Bank asks teams to propose different CSR projects under the umbrella of “Here For Good”. Each team is then responsible for fundraising to support each initiative as well as to consider just how other SC resources can be leveraged for the project. This approach results in strong project buy-in at every stage of the initiative from conception to evaluation. Similarly, Damson Capital, an impact investor asks each employee to choose a key initiative to engage with and then works out how to support their employees to lead a meaningful engagement with them.
5. Employees are your best ambassadors and storytellers
Many companies shared that they had green champions at work to help recruit colleagues to take part in sustainability initiatives. Some also found that an increasing number of employees were volunteering to share the social impact of their work with others.
Utilise this enthusiasm by involving your employees in writing about their experience. For example, P&G employees share their experience of community engagement on the intranet. These stories are consistently the most read and best rated throughout the company. The lesson for us all is that we need to utilise the enthusiasm and influence of employees better to help convey the impact of our business.
6. Integrate sustainability initiatives into performance indicators
Both P&G and Marina Bay Sands help put sustainability on the agenda by including it in employee KPIs.
P&G for example have an employee appraisal system centred around the 'Employee Value Equation' (EVE)’ which defines what employees are expected to give to the company and what the company gives to employees in return. The EVE has six main buckets—meaningful work, continual learning, terrific managers, career ownership, fair package, life balance. Having a clear EVE can help employers to attract, retain, motivate and engage employees, which ultimately drives business performance. It also provides every person in the organisation has reason to care and engage with sustainability.
The Breakfast Conversation series is a curated discussion in which a small group of practitioners come together to share challenges and best practice in their field.
The next event will be held in the week of 17 April 2017. Contact us if you have an issue you would like to discuss or would like us to co-create a Breakfast Conversation with you.