In the modern world, both employees and consumers want to be doing good. They want to feel like the businesses they align themselves with (whether that’s working for or buying from!) hold the same values.
This growing trend of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means a business’s social impact is more important than ever. And it also means that a brand’s social impact can be the strategic differentiating factor that makes all the difference to its success.
But when it comes to ‘social impact’, as business owners, we’re sometimes a bit in the dark. What exactly is it, and why does wellness matter?
This is the first article in a two-part series investigating social impact in regional business. First, we will discuss what social impact is and the role that wellbeing plays. Don’t miss the next article in the series, where we explain how your regional brand can measure its social impact.
What is social impact?
The social impact of a business refers to the positive or negative effect that its actions, activities or programs have on a group of people or community. This can be at a local neighbourhood level right up to a global stage. When it comes to regional businesses, social impact is generally measured at the local regional level.
Brands typically align their social purpose with their business goals and industry. However, their ultimate goal is to foster positive change by addressing issues or inequities.
Why is social impact important?
In addition to the obvious rewards of generating positive change within the community, displaying CSR is a fantastic way to attract quality talent and loyal customers. In fact, it’s gone from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have.
Data from Benevity’s Talent Retention Study shows that engaging employees in the brand’s purpose is strongly linked to employee retention. And when newer employees participate in purpose programs, their companies see a 52% lower turnover.
Similarly, the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study: Feeling Purpose found that customers love a company with purpose too. Not only were purpose-driven advertisements more effective in two-out-of-three brand categories tested, but 79% of respondents said they felt a deeper personal connection to companies with values similar to their own. In addition, 88% of survey respondents said they would purchase products or services from that company.
A survey by Clutch found similar results. 75% of people said they would likely start shopping at companies that take the same approach to issues as they do. And 71% said it was important for businesses to take a stance on social movements. Having a clear social purpose will also help your brand to establish trust and gain a good reputation within the community.
Social impact in regional areas
Regional communities can be particularly vulnerable to inequalities, isolation and other social issues. This is an area where social impact can make a noticeable difference. The stereotype of country towns banding together and supporting one another also generally holds true – meaning that residents often align with businesses that are supporting a good cause.
Brands that focus on developing genuine community connections and earn a reputation for being trustworthy and virtuous will often have a promising future in a regional town.
Flow on social impact
Of course, your social impact doesn’t stop in your community or region alone. The Federal Government’s Stronger Places, Stronger People initiative represents the government’s focus on bottom-up policies. This new policy – announced in the 2023-24 budget – will support the delivery of community-level programs with the infusion of $64 million that will help bring benefits to disadvantaged people in those areas. This is part of the overall $199.8 million that the government has earmarked for social impact initiatives targeting community disadvantage.
The government recognises that starting from the community level (bottom-up rather than top-down) is the best way to achieve better outcomes for Australians as a whole.
Interestingly, one-third of the nation lives outside of our capital cities, and 67% of Australia’s exports (in value) come from regional areas. But despite the important role regional, remote and rural communities play in Australia’s economy and performance, we seem to still be widely overlooked when it comes to important conversations.
So when we attended a conference on social impact in Sydney recently, we were a little disappointed but not surprised about the lack of representation or conversations about regional Australia. Not that the content and speakers weren’t great and powerful, but it was very city-centric.
Even the Stronger Places, Stronger People initiatives, while focused on some regional areas, isn’t a truly regional initiative. Instead, it’s focused on areas that are deemed ‘disadvantaged’ leaving the notion of supporting regional Australians out in the cold.
But when you look at the kind of mainstream media coverage regional and rural Australia gets, it is not surprising that some of the nation has a warped sense of what regional and rural life really brings to the table.
So, could mapping social impact bring more attention to the regional areas and improve outcomes? Could it become part of a solution?
Measuring social impact
At Blue Clay, we primarily work with brands who are doing good in the world – businesses with social purpose. Being able to measure their social impact helps guide not only their business strategy but also brand marketing. One way that social impact can be tracked is through ‘wellness’ or wellbeing.
Wellness as a measure of social impact
The words ‘wellbeing’ and ‘wellness’ are bandied about a lot – but what do they actually mean? Some definitions focus on feeling great, while others are about functioning optimally or the satisfaction of serving a purpose. Essentially, it means a good quality of life.
Wellness is an excellent metric for social impact at both an individual and community level. Community wellbeing has been defined by Wiseman and Brasher as ‘the combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish and fulfil their potential’.
Wellness at a community level is important for many different reasons. When a community is ‘well’, it has hope and resilience (particularly important for rural communities) as well as feelings of harmony and social cohesion, and there tend to be adequate opportunities for all. In other words, wellness makes for happier and healthier communities.
For these reasons, community wellbeing should certainly be included as a measure of a brand’s social impact. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. We find it encouraging to see that some governments have started implementing wellbeing frameworks that also consider community wellness, not solely economic growth when measuring progress. This acts as great motivation for businesses to follow suit.
But how can you tell if your brand is making a genuine difference? And how can you convey the great work you’re doing to your employees, stakeholders and consumers? This requires companies to create a framework to act as a guide to achieving those benchmarks. And that’s where social impact mapping comes in.
Read more about how your regional business can map its social impact and incorporate community wellness as a metric in our next article in the series.