On day 1 of Sustainable Brands’ (SB) New Metrics ’19 (Nov 18-20), representatives from corporates, nonprofits and more explored new ways to quantify the impacts of various forms of stakeholder engagement — from communities to consumers to employees.
Measuring the social impact of corporate-nonprofit collaboration
By Richa Agarwal
VeraWorks' Bea Boccalandro
Dialogue on how to measure the social impact through a collaborative relationship between corporations and nonprofits is one of the setting stones for value creation and risk management for socially conscious businesses. VeraWorks founder Bea Boccalandro relayed a conversation with Gwen Migita, global head of social impact at Caesars Entertainment (who could not be at the event), on how to determine whether corporate money spent with nonprofits for social programs results in positive changes in the long term. The conversation was sparked by Caesars’ investment in an initiative called Teachers Exchange, wherein all the underutilized stationery and other classroom supplies are donated to needy students; Caesars has spent over $2 million on this initiative in the last 11 years.
Boccalandro couldn’t emphasis enough the need for data assessment for nonprofit organizations. On evaluation, VeraWorks found that Teachers Exchange had a constructive impact on students. But she believes that for-profit companies should not just give away money to social programs, but should direct resources to capturing impact through data assessment: Studies show that only 20 percent of social programs measure their impact; and of that number, only half are making a difference.
Further, Boccalandro focused on the need for corporates to go beyond just spending money in CSR, towards creating metrics to quantify the impacts that the nonprofit has been able to have. She emphasized that lack of data may inhibit understanding of unseen consequences of investment in a mismatched social venture, and how it could end up worsening a problem instead of solving it.
How Microsoft is measuring local community prosperity to inform stakeholder engagement and investment
By Leila Goldmark
L-R: Dimitar Vlahov and Jim Hanna
In this keynote and onstage conversation with SB’s Dimitar Vlahov, Jim Hanna — Director of Datacenter Community Development at Microsoft — provided an overview of the tech giant’s new set of social metrics, designed to better understand local communities in places where it has data centers. These metrics help generate Community Prosperity Scores that can be benchmarked and tracked, helping to inform stakeholder-engagement initiatives and guide community investments that best meet the needs of each community.
The Problem: Lots of activity, no impact measurement
Microsoft’s network of data centers generate local environmental and social impacts (e.g. land, water, air, energy, employment, etc). As a responsible community member, Microsoft wanted to give back to communities where it operated through a number of sustainability initiatives (e.g. providing broadband, environmental conservation, rural community economic development, etc). As with many sustainability initiatives — and, as Bea Boccalandro and Caesars discussed, above — Microsoft’s initial community-development programs generated a lot of activity, but they had no idea if that activity was actually achieving the desired impact. How could they tell what was working?
The Solution: New metrics
Microsoft worked for several years to identify Critical Community Prosperity Metrics (CCPM) to produce Community Prosperity Scores and better assess the performance of its community development projects. Identified metrics include:
· Access to healthcare
· Housing affordability
· Access to leisure, recreation, cultural activities
· Access to affordable childcare
· Air quality
· Employment rates
· Locally owned businesses
· STEAM education
· Income inequality
· Access to affordable broadband
· Access to transportation / commute times
· Active community organizations
· Integration of immigrant / excluded groups
The results, so far
Hanna explained that Microsoft’s CCPMs are a work in progress, and that they are intended to be transparent and publicly available for all to use:
“I’m not here to showcase a finished product. We need transparency and to share the bumps and bruises among our peers. We need to learn, to join forces, if we are to improve.”
Microsoft does not claim expertise in social issues, but there are many expert organizations that focus on measuring community prosperity. Thus, Microsoft is trying to rely on publicly available data for inputs to its data engine, whenever possible.
Microsoft continues to reach out for feedback, holding several local community stakeholder-engagement meetings each year, and seeking to partner with local stakeholders — individuals, elected officials, local NGOs and employees. It is using its data to embed sustainability throughout business units, where traditional business metrics and budgets will move projects forward.
AT&T: Exploring new frontiers in quantifying the benefits of employee engagement
By Richa Agarwal
AT&T's Jason Leiker
Next up, Jason Leiker — Associate VP of CSR at AT&T — asserted that initiating new ways to quantify the benefits of employee engagement turned out to be a game-changer for AT&T. He talked about the complexity of the issues, how the company and society need to go hand-in-hand; and lastly, how employees can add value to the company as part of the community.
Leiker explained the approach undertaken by AT&T to get buy-in from employees to participate in community-engagement programs — through giving and digital volunteer participation — and how that approach has resulted in an 11 percent increase in employee eNAP ratings.
The company changed its metrics, from measuring community programs by external impacts to quantifying employee participation and satisfaction. Engagement opportunities that had required workplace flexibility, preparation and commitment are now being leveraged through a wide variety of engagement opportunities for employees are that are fun, easy and allow for broader participation. Changing the top-down approach to competitive fundraisers — focused on dollars raised — has created an opportunity for peer-to-peer fundraisers focused on overall positive experience; and growing programs with a shrinking budget were converted to programs with shared and growing budgets; all resulted in increased employee participation.
Regarding reaching employees, the company has three stages of involvement — first, 99 percent of employees are aware of the programs; second, roughly 58 percent are engaged; and third, 32 percent of employees have become community champions.
Leiker also shared how the approach was seeing a direct impact on employee reviews: Of employees that were surveyed, the company saw 4 percent more interest in retention rate, and 4 percent more employees were willing to be engaged with these programs. Leiker strongly believes that the benefits of employee engagement have the potential to transform businesses.
Inspiring and tracking consumer behavior change: Unleashing the power of #BrandsForGood
By Richa Agarwal
Brands for Good is a collaborative initiative — undertaken by Sustainable Brands and a handful of its Corporate Members and external partners — to change consumer behavior for the more sustainable, and create metrics that quantify the impacts. The initiative, formally launched in June 2019, aimed to bring companies together, to pool resources to co-create and co-design success metrics for sustainable marketing and resultant changes in consumer behavior. The participating brands and organizations have taken a three-point pledge:
to embed environmental and social purpose in the heart of their products;
to use their marketing, communications and brand influence to make sustainable living accessible, aspirational and rewarding; and
to work together to transform the field of marketing to shift behaviors and close the intention-action gap with respect to sustainable purchasing/lifestyle behaviors.
Brands for Good VP Etienne White elaborated on the need for understanding what drives consumers to buy and the need for facilitating sustainable buying habits. She asserted that marketing needs a redesign; and how there are many metrics out there, but none capture consumer behaviors for companies. White referenced a Brands for Good report that found a case to create a “pull factor” for customers for sustainability, instead of pushing it on them, and that leveraging evidence-based research and brand creativity can close the intention-action gap.
Brands for Good has identified nine sustainable behaviors as the basis for an Innovation Framework in four core areas: lifestyle, marketing and advertising, media and socio-economic. Using these, Brands for Good is now creating a Lifestyle Transformation Roadmap, which will include a self-assessment component to inspire and empower consumers and employees; socio-economic trend-trackers that track measures on the baseline population defined by brand and industry segments; marketing and advertising effectiveness and evaluation metrics for work that successfully engages consumers; and a Media Engagement Strategy that showcases and amplifies Brands for Good stakeholders. Watch this space!