Meet the new disruptors: social innovators.
As a company whose mission is to do good work that matters, we’re always searching for ways to achieve and maintain a lasting impact in the worlds of both social innovation and corporate social responsibility. As event producers for Fortune 500 companies, our work affords us access to a dynamic roster of industry experts and innovators, and Deloitte has shown itself to be a leader.
Deloitte has been analyzing social impact practices and revealing the persuasive ways in which they can transform entire industries, and they recently released a detailed report analyzing every Global Fortune 500 company’s status as it relates to social impact. Intrigued by their work, we began to see the ways in which social impact strategies were disrupting entire business sectors.
In their full report, Deloitte uses a variety of metrics to analyze every company’s relation to social impact and the types of practices they implement. From their findings, they were able to formulate four distinct corporate archetypes that each company could fall into. The top archetype, Deloitte’s Social Innovator, is where we trained our focus. According to the report, “social impact is integral to strategy, embedded in processes and across business units” for social innovators, and that the business these companies generate “creates socially conscious goods/services and markets.” Their social mission, succinctly, “is seen as authentic.”
To these companies, social impact goes hand-in-hand with every other facet of their business vision and operations. They appear to be on the precipice of disrupting industries in a manner similar to Uber, Amazon, and Airbnb – this time, however, there seems to be no limit to the amount of industries that could be changed. Public perception is changing, too: social impact is no longer a charitable deduction. It is a pervasive business methodology that can be applied to any field.
We should be promoting companies that understand social impact’s true potential, and following in the footsteps of corporations like Warby Parker that actively provide education and resources for local youth. Ethical financial services can also contribute to your bottom line; you needn’t look further than the innovative lending practices of Affirm or the ambitious student loan debt relief led by Earnest to see it in action. Social Capital fearlessly proclaims that an increase in both “the GDP and the happiness of the markets in which we operate” is what they truly base their success on. If a few more companies focused intently on the simple happiness of their targeted markets, and saw how interchangeably that happiness related to monetary value, they could be in a different place.
From an event management perspective, this is a space that hasn’t been filled – at least not to our satisfaction. We see ourselves in this space; the integration of social good has been part of our model for many years. As event producers intent on fostering lasting and worthwhile relationships, we’ve been conscious of the effects of corporate social responsibility and have been tasked with facilitating proper social impact practices for a variety of clients. There are event management pitfalls that a company needs to be able to navigate. If done correctly, the result could elevate a client as a true social impact leader.
Recently, we traveled to Durban, South Africa to manage a client sponsorship of the 2016 International AIDS Conference. Our client, an energy company, has been a corporate leader in combatting HIV/AIDS globally for years, and the investment of both their resources and influence has produced real results. The worry with an initiative of this type, normally, is that it’s often viewed as an opportunistic PR move. Large companies can plaster their brand on a variety of initiatives, but it takes commitment, strategy, and long-term investment on an entirely different level to succeed in social impact. Our client knows this. We’ve embraced and supported this strategy as the foundation of our event work, and are proud to contribute to the progress the global community makes each year in combatting HIV/AIDS.
Elevating social impact requires communication with both large, corporate clientele and on-the-ground, smaller nonprofits and foundations. You need to know how to converse in both worlds. Relationships remain the primary focus; they hold comprehensive social impact together. At the heart of our work, we design and create the optimum environments to deepen the relationships between corporations and their partners. Within a company, there needs to be a comprehensive strategy of best practices to remain sustainable, promote diversity, reevaluate shareholder and stakeholder priorities, and captivate and retain an audience or customer base. The expertise and experience needs to exist in order for these connections to be made correctly. We’re ready to speak more, write more, and, most importantly, do more to make this space in the event industry what it should be. We’re ready to help these disruptors.
What industries need to be disrupted a little more? Let’s start with technology and the always-present need for women and young girls to be championed in the fields of computer science and coding. This is the essence of the social in social impact: companies who are fearless in addressing the great societal challenges of our time will benefit, and benefit immensely. We must remember this, especially as we increasingly look to companies to provide responses to the difficulties we face.
Social innovators are disruptors; there’s no way around it. They are commanding an ever-increasing portion of the corporate landscape and are changing the rules of engagement for companies. From their inception, social innovators understand that the values of corporate social responsibility, sustainability, and stakeholder consideration are not additions to be later considered, but rather guiding principles that are driving forces behind the company’s creation. They cannot go away, for the company cannot exist without them. They don’t react to external forces in the social world – they anticipate them and help shape them.
We aren’t public relations consultants, and we don’t yet fit into the mold of a social innovator. We do, however, know how to generate conversation with our clients about whether they want to fit that mold. The takeaway of Deloitte’s work, and ultimately our efforts, is this: Know where you fit. Know your strategy. Be mindful, and elevate yourselves. Be proactive in the face of social change, and ask yourselves where you want to go.
Mattingly Messina also contributed to this article. Mattingly is a writer and student in the University of California, Berkeley’s Rhetoric Department.