1. What is a career in corporate impact?
Corporate impact integrates social and environmental considerations into all aspects of business operations including relationships with employees, suppliers, consumers and local communities. Professionals working in corporate responsibility will often perform one or more the following:
- Detailed reporting: Outlining the corporate impact strategy and specific data on how the company is performing against its social and environmental performance goals.
- Ethical sourcing: Developing guidelines and working with suppliers to ensure that raw materials are harvested, manufactured and transported in a sustainable way, and communities are positively affected by the process.
- Community outreach and investment: Working internally and with stakeholder communities to create projects that create positive impact while achieving business goals. Also using corporate philanthropic institutions to finance projects and organizations that benefit stakeholders and the environment.
- Employee engagement: Getting company people involved in impact efforts, including volunteering, changing company culture, identifying new initiatives and adopting more sustainable operational and business practices.
- Diversity and inclusion: Working with HR departments to create and advance policies and other solutions for recruiting and supporting employees with a variety of backgrounds and orientations.
For the private sector, corporate impact is often a way for companies to cultivate shared value and competitive advantage.
2. The Triple Bottom Line
The Triple Bottom Line (TBL) is an accounting framework the private sector uses to advance corporate impact. These three pillars make up the framework:
This refers to the empathetic management of a company’s primary stakeholders: employees, the organization as a whole, and members of the community in direct contact with business handlings. Increasing the wellbeing of those mentioned, means stronger reputation and business outputs for those who commit to the triple bottom line.
Corporations are now accepting their possible contributions toward climate change and are editing their life cycle management approach in an effort to minimize their ecological footprints. Companies who adhere to the TBL have adopted a “Cradle to Grave” approach, which means analyzing and reporting on their product lifecycle from raw material to disposal after use by consumer. This type of focus heeds an environmental impact, increase in customers (specifically millennials), and in most cases, a decrease in manufacturing costs.
In traditional business, profit is valued when revenue surpasses all business expenses. In a TBL business, profit is valued after all business expenses have been deducted. The difference being that the economic value created represents a shared value..
3. Types of Careers
Many corporations refer to sustainability consulting firms for the handling of their corporate impact. Consultants help companies conduct research and analysis on a company’s social and environmental impact and provide detailed strategies on how to execute and scale their impact.
Rather than hire outside talent to manage corporate impact, big businesses will create entire departments within their companies to address these goals. Sustainability managers will collaborate with many different departments within a company to make sure their business handlings adhere to a sustainability goal defined by the company.
You don’t need to have “sustainability” in your title to make an impact. Many people with a passion for creating social good do so through less direct roles, making it possible to pursue a more traditional career path while integrating and influencing positive change for their company. For example:
- The choices supply chain managers make play a critical role in how natural resources are used, how waste is handled and how humans are impacted during the production and distribution process.
- Human Resources professionals have a strong ability to influence culture, training, development and employee benefits, all of which lend themselves well to incorporating social and environmental impact. For example, initiating incentives for employee or company wide community service projects.
- As a product manager, you can take a sustainable approach to idea generation, materials analysis, prototype development and iteration, testing, deployment and pricing analysis.
- Finance professionals have tremendous opportunity to link the bottom line to social and environmental impacts through their tasks in accounting, reporting, analysis, asset management and investment and risk management.
- Employees working in marketing and brand management can employ market research techniques to understand stakeholder needs that inform corporate impact activities, and develop new ways of communicating about the shared value their companies deliver, both internally and externally. In addition, they use materials for their brand marketing that are less harmful to the environment - like recycled paper and inks that are non-toxic.