A few years back, all the talk was around reducing energy consumption and measuring waste to landfill. Simple times! Everything you needed to prepare a performance report was easily available. Bills, invoices and certificates provided details and data that made measurement and reporting a relatively straightforward exercise. It also made target-setting easy and year-on-year improvements were there for all to see.
Relatively recently there has been a marked shift from environmental to social sustainability. (This move is reflected strongly in recent materiality studies IMS Consulting has delivered for clients.) It’s driven partly by regulation and legislation, such as the Social Value Act and the Modern Slavery Act.
However, what’s interesting-and exciting- is the way businesses are realising that the part they play in society has a big effect on their own resilience and long-term prospects.
This shift marks a significant step forwards. It’s bringing business and society closer. Companies can see the positive impact of engaging with the communities in which they operate. Improvements include; better staff recruitment and retention, more representative mix of race and gender, and a better understanding of the needs of the workforce, customers and suppliers. With the development of tools that are now being used to measure and record social impact (such as local multiplier), companies feel more confident in reporting progress.
The ability to measure something also provides a basis for managing it. The social principles and practises of Victorian entrepreneurs such as the Cadbury family and the Lever brothers are being revitalised, as (some) big businesses re-establish their responsibilities and are playing a more active part in improving local communities.