Can you hear it? There’s a revolution afoot. Right now, in the boardrooms and strategy sessions of companies around the world, things are changing.
And we’d like to think they’re changing for the better.
In previous articles we’ve talked about our own transition to Impact. However, now that we’ve been working from an Impact-first mindset, we’ve found ourselves in more than a few conversations about what that means. Not just with new clients, but amongst ourselves as well. It’s become obvious that we need to sit down and define what social impact means to us as a team.
Which is why today, we wanted to take a minute to break down exactly how we define social impact and how it affects the way we do the business. But before we get into all that, let’s start with a simple definition.
Definition of Social Impact
Social Impact / n.
The total effect that a brand has on the welfare of their community.
That’s as concise as we could get it. That said, there’s a lot to unpack there, so let’s explain what that definition means, piece by piece.
First of all, let’s be clear that “total effect” doesn’t mean total positive effect. In some cases, a brand can have a negative social impact. For example, look at the devastating effects of oil spills and chemical leaks. Or even something as simple as those payday loan shops— they have a negative net effect on their community, a negative social impact.
On the other hand, you have companies like Cotopaxi, who constantly seek to have a positive effect on the welfare of their community. Every year, they give away hundreds of thousands of dollars through their foundation. On top of that, they’re only interested in working with fair trade partners, they’ve adopted ethical hiring practices, and they’re a certified B-Corp. In other words, they’re a company that’s not shy about changing the world.
Which brings us to the second half of the definition of social impact.
We’ve taken care to say “community” instead of “the world”. Ideally yes, every brand that makes a commitment to impact should seek to change the world. However, it’s important to note that some brands are hyper-focused on just one country, one city, or even one neighborhood.
For example, CIELO is a brand that provides business, finance, and entrepreneurial training so people can access employment opportunities or start a business. What’s different about CIELO, is that they primarily focus on helping residents in Orange County, a specific neighborhood in California. Brands like CIELO are why we define social impact as it relates to a company’s community (where they spend their time and energy) instead of defining it within a global context.
Another reason we’ve used “community” in our definition, is because social impact isn’t always driven by making external changes. Often, as we’ll explore below, brands seek to drive positive social impact by focusing on their team, technology, and processes— their internal community.
Does that all make sense? Great. Now that you know how and why we’ve defined social impact, let’s move on and talk a little about how companies actually create social impact.
Making a Difference: External Social Impact
External social impact is what usually comes to mind when people think about “doing good” for their community. This is where your brand actively provides positive change for people and groups outside of their company.
For example, the two brands we mentioned above (Cotopaxi and CIELO) drive plenty of external social impact through their work. They help others, invest energy into their communities, and strive to do good for the people they’ve committed to help.
This is true of most of the Impact Brands we’ve featured on our blog:
- Mavely – Gives female entrepreneurs a place to sell their products and grow their businesses. Learn More.
- To The Rescue – Literally saves lives using technology. Learn More.
- Clairify – Makes indoor air safer and healthier. Learn More.
In each case, these are examples of brands that impact their communities in a positive way. Here at Flying Saucer, we’re constantly looking for ways to have a more positive external social impact. For example, we’re currently:
- Reducing our carbon footprint.
- Changing our hosting and service providers to more sustainable companies.
- Partnering with impact funds and VC’s to connect with our community/clients.
- Helping clients with recruitment and building remote teams.
- Continuing to work exclusively for clients who are changing the world.
- Giving away $10,000 in services to startups who’re doing amazing things. Learn more.
These are all initiatives that will help us make a bigger social impact in our external community. However, that’s not the only way that organizations can focus on Impact. Plenty of brands also spend lots of time thinking of ways to impact their internal community i.e., their team.
Making a Difference: Internal Social Impact
The days of overworking your employees and paying them as little as possible are over. Or at least, they’re on the way out. In today’s world, more and more brands are waking up to the fact that in order to remain competitive, they need to take care of their people. They need to have a positive effect on the welfare of their internal community.
Internal social impact can be a little less obvious than its external cousin. To help it all make sense, let’s go back to Cotopaxi, the clothing company we touched on at the beginning of this article.
Cotopaxi makes an insane amount of clothes and outdoor gear. Which means they need to find factories that can make quality equipment at a low cost. However, what we love about Cotopaxi is that they only partner with factories who provide a great working environment for their workers.
For example, the India-based factory that makes Cotopaxi’s t-shirts is Fair Trade Certified. This means that a percentage of the money Cotopaxi earns goes right back to the workers, and is funneled into a free breakfast program, education grants, and onsite medical clinics.
In a sense, Cotopaxi is trying to be the change they wish to see in the world. And that’s what internal social impact is all about. It’s about taking all your good intentions and focusing them inward, on the people that make your brand possible.
At Flying Saucer, we can’t hold a candle to work that Cotopaxi is doing for their laborers. However, internally we also seek to drive social impact wherever possible. For instance, we’re a fully-remote marketing studio, which means we give our employees the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world. Working remotely also means that we can give employees the flexibility to work on their own schedule, and escape the soul-stealing grind of a 9–5.
In practice, this fully-remote approach has seen our team take time off for important social causes (e.g., a few days ago, four of our staff were able to take an entire day off to support social causes in Mexico.)
But let’s be honest…
Flying Saucer is still at the infancy of our addiction to Impact. At the moment, we’ve got a stack of ideas about how we can change the way we work, drive more social impact, and take care of our team in new ways. As the year unfolds, we’ll continue to implement new Impact initiatives, both internal and external.
If you’d like to stay up to date on all the ways we’re addressing our own contribution to our community, follow us on Twitter.