Loads of business owners had a chance to think about their purpose in 2020. It was a year in which 'the meaning of it all' and our shared responsibility toward each other was at the top of our minds.
Seeing the heroic efforts of key workers keeping us healthy and safe was humbling, and might have provoked a bit of guilt for those of us able to comfortably work from home. And it's not always easy to find purpose and motivation in your work if it's not immediately clear what social impact you're having.
That said, pretty much every legitimate business contributes tax pounds for the good of the country and provides valuable employment - which is a start. And that's fine. But for those that want a more direct way of improving the world, following an impact-led path is the way to go.
So what is an impact-led business, and how can you build one? And what are the smaller ways in which you can contribute without having to overhaul your business model? Here's a quick look at the reality of impact-led organisations, why they're good, and what you can learn from them.
Why your business should focus on impact
One of the most important reasons you can focus on impact is that it's a motivation driver. While monthly targets, financial incentives and fear of punishment can all drive someone to work hard and achieve their goals, there's nothing quite like making a real impact. It fires people up.
In fact, millennials that have a 'strong connection to the purpose of their organisation' are 5 times more likely to remain at their company for the long-term. But these lucky few are in short supply: only 33% of workers gain real meaning from their company's purpose, according to a PwC study.
It's not just about making staff happy, either. 8 out of 10 customers of purpose-driven brands are more likely to be loyal to them, as they see them as more caring. Two thirds of customers would even forgive them for a mistake rather than go elsewhere. Purpose-driven companies grow on average three times faster than their competitors.
And of course, there's the ultimate reason: because it's the right thing to do. If you want to live in a safer community, with breathable air, equal opportunities and a sense of optimism for the future, you've got to do your bit. There are some big business names out there that have a pretty awful reputation for taking more than they give; we'd rather not be one of them.
The definition of an impact-led organisation
An impact-led organisation (or purpose-driven company) is one that does more than just earn profit for its own shareholders. It contributes to societal and environmental causes even though it's not legally obliged to do so.
There are different ways that orgs can approach making an impact in the world.
- Their impact might be unofficial, with a sense of social responsibility that's spread through the company culture.
- It might be officially declared in the company's stated values, mission statement and culture deck.
- It might be structurally built-in to the company's operations. 'B-corps' are companies certified to meet high standards of 'social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.'
- Or it could be the entire reason the organisation exists: social enterprises such as non-profits and charities aim to tackle certain social or environmental issues.
The different ways your business can make an impact
Positive impact on the world can take a number of different forms:
- Donating profits to good causes
- Making things in a more environmentally-friendly way than competitors
- Participating in community programs to improve health, safety, connection and economic opportunity
- Creating products that help people connect with each other and do good things
- Having a sustainable supply chain that involves recycling and renewable energy
- Lobbying for change at the governmental level
- Spreading awareness of important causes
- Giving staff paid volunteering leave
There's a load more ways of doing good - just have a look at the impact-led businesses you admire and see how you might adopt their model.
Internally, you might drive these outcomes in different ways. According to PwC, there are three ways you can tackle purpose in your company:
"Companies can put purpose to work by intentionally embedding purpose in three main aspects of the organisation: leadership and management practices, communications, and talent strategies."
These things could be listed as a side activity you barely think about - like regular donations - or they could be deeply embedded in your strategy.
At Timetastic, we're happy to contribute to good causes that make our environment and communities better. We support 1% for the Planet, Trees for Life, and offer a discount scheme for good causes and impact led businesses. And we may have more to announce on this topic in future - stay tuned.
How can I increase the impact my business makes?
If you're thinking of increasing your contribution to the world around you - well done! You can always start small by donating a share of your turnover to good causes.
But if you're looking for more in-depth guides and resources for making an impact, you'd do well to look around the following:
- Social Enterprise UK is the country's national body for social enterprises.
- B-corporation have plenty of guides on getting your impact certified
- Escape the City is a resource for those wanting to get a career in impact-led business (and you can be listed as one of them to attract like-minded employees) - On Purpose is another similar resource.
- Make an Impact CIC is a consultancy for transforming businesses into impact-making organisations
- Impact Hub is a global community of people and organisations dedicated to making an impact.