Corporate Social Impact: An Imperative Not a Trend

“With great power comes great responsibility.”1 This iconic catchphrase, echoed by Spider-Man, isn’t just about superheroes; it’s a pivotal guiding principle for businesses worldwide. It serves as a reminder that in today’s interconnected world, businesses hold immense power to effect change. But how can companies wield this power responsibly? The answer lies in corporate social impact.

What is Corporate Social Impact?

Corporate social impact (CSI), often used interchangeably with corporate social responsibility (CSR), refers to the idea that businesses have a responsibility to society beyond just making a profit.2 This means considering the impact our business operations have on people and the environment, and taking actions to create positive change.

Here are some of the areas a company might focus on to improve its social impact:

  • Environmental Responsibility: Minimizing their impact on the environment through sustainable practices like reducing waste and pollution. If you’re interested in this, read our other post about Earning Climate Neutral Certification3 where we also share our emissions tracking template.
  • Ethical Responsibility: Ensuring fair treatment of workers, ethical sourcing of materials, and transparent business practices.
  • Philanthropic Responsibility: Giving back to communities through charitable donations or volunteer programs.
  • Economic Responsibility: Creating jobs, supporting economic development in the communities they operate in, and offering fair wages and benefits to employees.

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The Evolution of Business Success Metrics

Gone are the days when a company’s success was solely measured by its financial performance. Now, the scope has broadened: stakeholders—be they employees, customers, or communities—demand that businesses also weigh their environmental and social impacts. According to a 2017 Cone Communications study4, four out of five (79%) of U.S. citizens expect companies to demonstrate a commitment and continued improvements to their corporate social responsibility (CSR). This isn’t a shift in perception; it’s a transformative movement that offers businesses an opportunity to not only tackle global challenges but also enhance their brand reputation, attract top talent, and drive long-term profitability.

What Does Corporate Social Impact Entail?

Corporate Social Impact transcends traditional CSR, which might typically include charitable donations. CSI represents a strategic integration of social and environmental responsibility into the core business model. It’s about aligning business practices, products, and services to positively impact society and the planet. For instance, a clothing brand might source sustainable materials and adopt fair labor practices, ensuring that its positive impact is embedded in every thread of its operations, rather than being a peripheral concern.

At CauseLabs, we’re no strangers to the power of CSI. CauseLabs Impact Reports5 highlight how our commitments have helped the environment, improved healthcare support for our team and their families, and how our partnerships have created jobs and empowered countless individuals globally. It’s a testament to the transformative power of integrating purpose with business.

The Tangible Benefits of Corporate Social Impact

A robust CSI strategy can transform a business from the inside out. As a certified B Corp6 and a public benefit corporation, here are a few of the benefits we’ve experienced:

  • Enhanced Brand Reputation: Today’s consumers gravitate towards brands with a cause, making CSI a powerful differentiator in crowded markets.
  • Improved Employee Engagement: Employees are more productive and satisfied when they see their work contributing to societal good.
  • Attracting and Retaining Talent: Particularly among Millennials and Gen Z, there is a clear preference for employers whose values resonate with their own. However, this isn’t limited to those age groups. We’ve seen tremendous support across our team to work on project and internal company initiatives that align with their values, giving them purpose beyond doing a job and getting a paycheck.
  • Risk Management: Proactive social and environmental initiatives can mitigate potential risks tied to business operations. It all goes back to doing the right thing.
  • Unlocking New Markets: With a growing consumer willingness to pay a premium for ethical products, CSI can open new business avenues.

A city skyline with a lake in the foreground reflecting the city.

Practical Steps Towards Making an Impact

It’s not hard to find a roadmap for how to implement corporate social impact, but it is easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. Remember that it starts with one step forward. You don’t have to do it all in the first round. Take it in stride and do what you’re able. Every effort makes a small difference that adds up. For businesses looking to start or enhance their CSI efforts, here are some actionable steps that you will find in most guides:

  • Align CSI with Business Objectives: The most impactful CSI programs align with a company’s core business strategies and values. For example, a tech company might focus on reducing e-waste or improving digital literacy.
  • Engage Stakeholders: Successful CSI initiatives require the buy-in of all stakeholders, including employees, customers, and the community. Regular engagement through surveys and feedback sessions can help tailor social impact activities that resonate with all groups.
  • Measure and Report: Transparency is key to building trust and credibility. If you talk the talk, then walk the walk. Companies that measure the impact of their initiatives and report these outcomes to stakeholders are more likely to stay committed to their CSI goals. It not only showcases the company’s commitment but also encourages continuous improvement. After all, we know from experience, we can’t improve what we don’t measure.

Going Beyond Traditional Philanthropy

Unlike what is typically done in CSR, starting a meaningful CSI program requires introspection and strategic planning. Here are a few ways to begin:

  • Identify Your Values: Understand the core values driving your company and how these can translate into positive impacts.
  • Conduct a Materiality Assessment: Pinpoint the critical social and environmental issues intersecting with your business.
  • Set Measurable Goals: Clear, quantifiable targets are essential for tracking progress. For example, as a woman owned company we wanted to know what percentage of CauseLabs supply chain were women-owned businesses. This meant looking at every vendor including Staples where we purchased some paper. (Staples is not woman-owned by the way.) Our percentage was an alarmingly low 3%. Once we knew our benchmark we aimed to grow that by at least 10 times in the first year to reach 30%. We succeeded and it grew from there. There was a big lesson in this for us. Even when we know we support an initiative we have to remember to ask the right questions at the time of making our buying decisions. 
  • Integrate CSI into Business Strategy: Ensure CSI is woven seamlessly into your business operations. This also means setting aside the appropriate budget for your planned initiatives.
  • Partner with Experts: Collaborations can enhance your capacity to develop and implement effective CSI strategies.

A man looking at the camera smiles, a team of women are around him at the desk. They are all working together on a computer.

Tools and Resources for CSR and CSI

To effectively manage and scale CSR and corporate philanthropy efforts, companies can leverage various tools and resources. Platforms like Double the Donation7 offer comprehensive insights and statistics on corporate giving, while software solutions like 360MatchPro8 help streamline the matching gifts process, enhancing the impact of corporate donations. Blackbaud partnered with our friends at one of our favorite North Texas companies, YourCause®, to create the Blackbaud Giving Fund®.9 “In partnership with YourCause®, we make employee donation, corporate matching, and corporate granting programs easier so you can reach your corporate social good goals and bolster philanthropic giving.”

If you’re already doing some level of CSR and are expanding your impact to involve your company operations and stakeholder involvement, have a look at some other measurement tools. As we noted earlier, for environmental impact, you can look at certifications with companies such as Change Climate’s Climate Neutral certification. B Lab offers the B Impact Assessment10 if you’re ready to dive in and measure your overall social and environmental impact. If you’re not quite sure however, there is a free course called Path to B: An Introduction to the B Corp Movement.11 

Apart from the B Impact Assessment, there are other resources and tools available that can help businesses enhance their corporate social impact:

  • Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Dashboard: You can view the global SDG Dashboard. Tools like the SDG Action Manager integrate the B Impact Assessment and allow businesses to align their operations with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • UN Global Compact: Consider participating in the UN Global Compact, and if you already measure your impact on the SDG Action Manager this overlaps with some of your reporting requirements. See the video below to learn more about the UNGC.
  • GRI Standards: The Global Reporting Initiative offers standards for sustainability reporting that can help businesses measure and communicate their economic, environmental, and social impacts.
  • CSRHub: Provides CSR and sustainability ratings for companies which can be used to benchmark performance and plan improvements.
  • Metric: Showcases a peer-reviewed sustainability solution marketplace.
  • Boundless Impact: Shares expertise and comprehensive research and analytics on ESG investing. 
  • EcoVadis: Offers assessments that rate companies on the sustainability of their supply chains.
  • Terrapass: Offers verified carbon credits and carbon offsets.
  • Gold Standard: We allow our team to vote on projects we want to invest in together. This is where we purchase carbon credits because we can see the data more transparently and these projects were recommended on the website.
  • Terracycle: Recycle practically anything. We did a local project with them in partnership with Texas Wesleyan University where we helped set up recycling boxes on campus for used PPE, primarily masks and gloves during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

These tools offer various ways for companies to assess and enhance their impact, providing valuable insights and guidance to improve their contributions to societal and environmental well-being. As I said earlier though, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. There is no need to tackle all of this at once. Choose one and take the first step.

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The Future of Corporate Social Impact

As we look to the future, the integration of corporate social impact into core business functions appears inevitable. Innovations in technology and increasing global connectivity are making it easier for companies to make a significant impact. The ongoing challenge will be to balance profitability with social responsibility, ensuring that companies contribute positively to society without compromising their business goals.

A CEO’s Perspective: Balancing Acts and Real Commitments

As a CEO, I understand the complexities of running a business. Every decision, every investment into our corporate social impact, and every initiative we undertake is weighed carefully. It’s about doing the right things, not just doing things right. Upholding strong values and commitments is obviously good business, but I believe it also makes me the kind of leader who inspires others. I know I can’t change the world on my own. I do my small part and I hope to inspire others to do their small part as well.

I’m committed to empowering others to make a difference. I know the same is true for our entire team at CauseLabs, even for team members who are no longer amongst our ranks. We simply can’t unlearn being a good steward; it stays with us. It isn’t about being part of the change; it’s about driving it one step at a time where we are able. I invite you to join us on this journey of impactful transformation, where every step forward is a step towards a better world.

Our Invitation

In the spirit of responsibly wielding power, businesses have a profound opportunity to use their operations and influence for good. At CauseLabs, we are committed to leading by example, continuously exploring new ways to integrate social impact into every aspect of our work and our lives. We invite other companies and individuals to join us in this endeavor, creating a ripple effect of positive change across the globe.

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  1. Mental Floss. ‘With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility’: From Age-Old Axiom to Spider-Man’s Mantra: 
  2. Investopedia. What Is CSR? Corporate Social Responsibility Explained:
  3. CauseLabs. Our post on earning our climate neutral certification includes a lot of linked external references and guidelines. It also offers a free download of our company’s template for emissions tracking which references the tools we use for measurement and other resources from the
  4. Convention on Biological Diversity. Cone communications study pdf: 
  5. CauseLabs. View our impact reports dating back to 2017 when Sheryle Gillihan took over as CauseLabs CEO and worked towards converting the company to a public benefit corporation. 
  6. B Corporation. A link to CauseLabs certification profile. Being certified has helped us continue to measure and improve our corporate social impact since 2014: 
  7. Double the Donation. 
  8. 360MatchPro. 
  9. Blackbaud Giving Fund®. We admire the team and YourCause® and are so excited to see how much their reach is expanded with their Blackbaud partnership: 
  10. B Lab on B Impact Assessment: 
  11. B Lab Europe via Thinkific LMS. Course on the Path to B: An Introduction to the B Corp Movement:

Video credits go to the UN Global Compact of which we are a participant. View their Youtube for more resources:

Chief Executive Officer

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