10 Principles of Social Impact

There are no hard and fast rules for success, but using examples of great, public case studies the 10 Principles of Social Impact listed below provide a guide as you look to build or assess your own program.


1. It should be authentic.
Not only is the Chobani founder, chairman and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya working to mobilize the private sector to help address the growing refugee crisis as the founder of the Tent Foundation, the company leads by example, hiring refugees in its plants in Idaho and upstate New York – and engages its employees to support those communities through the Chobani Foundation. Hamdi’s belief that business is the best way to change the world seems to guide nearly every aspect of the organization.


2. It should speak to your business purpose
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Few companies embody their mission more than Patagonia. From the start, Patagonia leveraged the strength of its product to harness its loyal following of consumers and employees to help preserve the environment until it became synonymous with the brand itself.


3. It should be meaningful to internal and external stakeholders
You don’t need to be a big business to make a huge impact. An independent agent from a large company became impassioned about his “mother” company’s CSR issue, and created an annual rodeo fundraiser reaching employees and their families,  additional sponsors, and an entire community of rodeo-goers. Not only does the ever-growing event make money for a good cause, it unites and educates the community and raises the agent’s local profile to the degree that he has been able to get new business.


4. It should make measurable impact – if not initially, then over time
Verizon’s Innovative Learning initiative — the company’s mission to provide free technology, access and curricula to students who lack those resources — works to solve for a problem that will only worsen as technology continues to be used to find new and better ways to work. Launched five years ago, the program not only helps digitize schools, it also immerses kids in technology and teaches high school students to use technology to solve business issues. The Company has helped over one million students to date and has committed more than $200 million to the cause.
5. It should be easily communicated and accessible
“Socks are the the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.” That statistic catalyzed the founding of Bombas socks. Comfortable, durable and high-tech, Bombas also help address homelessness: For every 1 pair of Bombas sold, 1 specially-designed pair with anti-microbial treatment and reinforced seams is donated to homeless shelters around the country. The Bombas team also encourages customers to get involved by connecting them to local homeless shelters and asks businesses interested in the cause to reach out. Bombas’ clear purpose and a simple message is easily communicated to sock-wearers everywhere.
6. It should address issues you are uniquely positioned to address
After disrupting the hotel and lodging industry, Airbnb quickly realized that when disaster struck – hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, volcano – they had a community of hosts eager to help. Embracing the idea, Airbnb launched Open Homes, an extension of the Airbnb platform that indicates help is needed and matches hosts with people in urgent need of lodging. The company saw a problem – had a unique solution – and made it happen.
7. It should be a niche you can own – even in a “crowded” space
Cleaning up the environment is not exactly a niche issue, but through the recently launched Bottle Source initiative, The North Face has found a unique way to do its part. Working with the National Parks Service, the outdoor brand is minimizing human impact by making t-shirts and tote bags out of recyclable plastic bottles from the waste streams of Yosemite, Great Smoky Mountains and Grand Teton National Park – and donating a dollar for every product sold to the National Parks Foundation. All told – The North Face is raising awareness of recycling, reusing waste material, and raising money and awareness for three national parks. A great way to do good and stand out in a crowd.
8. It should be something that is open to collaboration
Facing incidents and allegations of sexual assault and misconduct that could threaten its business, Uber is making significant adjustments to its product and platform, as well as partnering with sexual assault experts to address this issue head-on. The company launched “Driving Change” in late 2017 with a focus on prevention and bystander engagement ,and is continuing to roll it out throughout 2018. In addition to its non-profit partners, Uber is also looking to collaborate with other businesses to help reduce instances of sexual assault and misconduct.
9. It should demonstrate a true commitment of time, money, people or other resources
Recently, wines and spirits company Pernod Ricard announced that it would no longer “adorn” its specialty liquor cocktails with plastic drinking straws due to the environmental harm caused by discarded straws. The company, whose social responsibility pillars include “protect our planet”, is instead committing resources to exploring biodegradable solutions. This focus on sustainability can be traced back to the 1966 founding of the Paul Ricard Oceanography Institute designed to educate the public about marine sustainability and the dangers of dumping refuse in the ocean.
10. It should reflect the diversity of your organization
TE Connectivity, a $13B public, global, B-to-B, technology and engineering company, takes “think globally and act locally” to heart when it comes to its Corporate Philanthropy. Rather than make all the decisions from the US, the company’s Community Ambassador Program engages local employees to address STEM and other issues that are meaningful to the communities where TE employees work and live. This approach allows employees to feel valued and heard, and see the direct impact of their time, money and commitment. The program is so well-regarded, in fact, the decisions of the more than 100 Community Ambassadors and local councils represent over 90 percent of TE’s corporate philanthropy efforts.