By Mark Horoszowski
The final corporate social responsibility(CSR) reports from 2017 have hit the printing presses and one thing is clear: despite notable efforts to create social good (and publicize it), consumers and employees think that companies should be doing more.
Research from McKinsey highlights that indeed, there is a growth in CSR Programs. The report also provides analysis showing that for CSR programs to be effective in creating an impact and bottom-line results, organizations must proactively create partnerships with external groups.
This shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Corporations are already increasingly outsourcing their core business processes, and now they are outsourcing critical aspects of their social impact projects, too.
Two weeks ago, 28 global brands – like Microsoft, PwC, and Timberland – took home Halo awards from the Engage for Good conference in Chicago. All were recognized for their leadership in developing and scaling social impact programs that created lasting change, while benefiting the business’ bottom line – but none of these companies did it alone. While the award-winning programs were vastly different, they all shared something in common: all received awards alongside external partners that were critical to delivering their for-good programs.
Microsoft’s MySkills4Afrika program is just one such example which received a Halo award for best employee engagement program through skills-based volunteering, which is modelled after and in collaboration with the MovingWorlds Experteering platform. Outsourcing is, of course, not new for Microsoft. In the same way that Microsoft is not an expert in end-user installs or device manufacturing, and hence relies on partners and outside electronic manufacturers to deliver its full value proposition, the MySkillsAfrika program relies on external support to share needed insights and best practices.
With the help of MovingWorlds, MySkills4Afrika invites Microsoft employees from all over the world to travel across Africa and volunteer their talent and deep expertise to support startups, universities, the public sector, and small-and-medium business working to build a promising future for Africans. The shared-value promise of MySkills4Afrika is fantastic: Transferring skills to the organizations that need them the most, contributing the professional development experience of a lifetime to the volunteer, and providing invaluable insights to Microsoft to learn more about some of its high-potential markets.
For corporations looking to engage in social impact programs, they can use these outsourcing lessons from the award-winning corporations featured at the Engage for Good conference:
#1: Identify the Business Objectives Your For-Good Program Is Seeking to Impact
For corporate social impact programs to take hold and be sustainable, they must address a critical business need and function. Outsourcing critical functions is an expensive and risky process and should be approached with clearly defined intentions. Before outsourcing, measurable goals should be identified for:
- Impact to people and/or planet
- Business bottom line measures
- Employee purpose achievement and professional development
Take MySkills4Afrika as an example. Before inviting employees to volunteer, Microsoft first had to build the business case for sponsoring its employees on one-to-two week volunteer projects across the African continent. It did that by highlighting some key objectives to its internal corporate funders: (1) develop technical proficiency across the African continent to increase usage of Microsoft, especially amongst startups to develop new solutions; (2) help human resources improve it recruitment and retention programs; (3) Appeal to growing employee demand to contribute to social good initiatives.
#2: Develop Clear Success Criteria with Clear Ownership
In partnership with your social good organization, make sure to document goals with clear lines of ownership. During the partner selection and project scoping process, it’s of paramount importance that both sides clearly understand these criteria, and that each organization can directly own key performance indicators. For this program to be sustainable, as the business, you should be able to connect each KPI directly to the business objectives outlined before, and that the achievement of those create direct social impact, too. Here is clear litmus test to know if you have achieved a match: Take away all your documents and pull out a scratch piece of paper. If you and your impact partner can both write down the same success metrics for the program and the partner, and who owns which, you’re at a good point of definition!
Let’s look at another recipient of Engage for Good recognition: Timberland. Timberland’s alliance with Smallholder Farmers Alliance (SFA) sets the gold standard for this, winning the best corporate environmental program. The Planting Seeds for Haiti’s Futurecampaign smartly defined a goal that achieved a business objective for Timberland, while an impact goal for the SFA: Plant 5 million trees in 5 years, and develop a model along the way that would self-sustain the SFA, which was accomplished with a tree currency model. This aligned with the Smallholder Farmers Alliance’s mission of creating more economic opportunities for its farmers, while ensuring the long-term health and biodiversity of the land they worked, which included planting trees for environmental preservation. And here was the genius in this partnership: by aligning on creating a self-sustaining model alongside impact, the two parties remain engaged sharing insights back and forth. In doing so, SFA was able to share with Timberland the need to find purchasers of higher-margin products, like cotton, which would enable the farmers to earn higher incomes. SFA, which knew many of Timberland’s objectives, was able to build on the previous success to the Seeds campaign and collaborate with Timberland to integrate into its supply chain. In this case, not only did the success criteria enable the first Seeds projects to be higher impact, but it paved the way for future partnerships innovations, too.
#3: Integrate Processes, Workflows AND Data
In the same way that a manufacturing company is reliant on sharing and receiving timely data and updates to optimize its supply and distribution chains, social impact partners needs to be integrated, too. Integrations can differ dramatically based on the industries they reside, but for social impact outsourcing to be effective, integrations must be taken as seriously as any core business outsourcing.
These levels of integrations aren’t exactly easy, but at the Engage for Good conference workshop on “”, some best practices emerged from “: The Walt Disney Company & Girl Up’s award-winning #DreamBigPrincess Global Photography Campaignand Edward Jones & Alzheimer’s AssociationInvesting in a Cure campaign.
- Processes should be co-designed so that both parties know where their works start and stop, and what triggers those starts and stops.
- Workflows, and automations of them, should have clear inputs and outputs so that the status of each workflow is easy to follow
- Data should flow along the entire integration so that all partners have the just-in-time insight to make decisions, adjust their ownership areas, and improve their operations
As corporations continue to increase the breadth and depth of social impact programs, you can expect to see an increase in the number of partnerships with companies, and the number of partnerships that each company has. As partnerships are formed, keep these lessons in mind to ensure they are productive and deliver the triple-bottom line benefits: (1) Identify and communicate your business objectives, (2) Develop clear success criteria and ownership, (2) Integrate processes, workflows, and data.
Not only will these partnerships help create more sustainable change, but they might help your program set the new gold standard for developing the best corporate social impact programs.
Mark Horoszowski is co-founder and CEO, MovingWorlds.