Three Starting Points To Effective Social Impact
Originally posted on Forbes.com
The last few years have taught us some powerful lessons and made us realize just how connected our world has become. Importantly, we have seen that despite the very real hardships in the world, there is also an immense amount of good, with people working together in small and large ways toward bettering our society. Such events have led to the higher prioritization of corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives and made CEOs and leaders take a closer look at how they are managing their teams, business and philanthropy.
At DigitalOcean, we have always held “Love is at Our Core” as an intrinsic value. It was with love that our first official social impact program was launched in 2018, Hub for Good. Last year, at our IPO, we announced that we’d change the name to Hollie’s Hub for Good to honor a beloved employee who suddenly passed away just before we went public. We also joined the Pledge 1% movement, committing to spend at least $50 million over the next 10 years to build DO Impact, our social impact platform.
I believe in managing a business to optimize outcomes for customers, employees and investors, and it’s also my belief that an important element is to also address the communities our core constituencies are a part of. As a derivative, we also have to be mindful of their communities as a lever to drive this optimization. It’s Ben Franklin’s concept of “doing well by doing good.” The two are not mutually exclusive and work best when they are both aligned with the company’s mission.
It’s important to note there is no one-size-fits-all approach to social impact, but there are a few starting points that I believe executives should keep in mind as they and their teams build out corporate social impact programs, no matter their scope.
Give The Initiative The Respect It Deserves
We owe it to employees and communities to do more to engage and to leverage our talent and our assets to help the communities in which we live and the customers we serve.
Corporate social impact must be given its place as a fundamental business unit. Whether that means a full department, a part-time role or a committee of employees, it must have an organizational structure with goals, budget and accountability.
Any official program will need a champion and leader to activate and empower initiatives targeted to have a broader social impact. This may not be at a vice president or C-level, but ultimately there needs to be a person leading the charge.
Like any other internal organization, a social impact team must be held responsible for the outcomes of its program. The initiative and the people who have made CSR their career path are owed the respect of that kind of responsibility.
Find Ways To Be A Force Multiplier
An effective social impact program must look beyond its office walls to have a significant impact. Particularly for companies in technology, their greatest assets tend to be the technology they create, the customers they serve and the people they employ. Use these assets to be a force multiplier and exponentially increase your impact.
Gartner this year released a study that revealed 56% of respondents stated that the pandemic made them want to contribute more to society. Employees want to contribute something good to the world, and business leaders should be looking at that as an opportunity to harness. Arm your employees and customers with products and resources to be the force for change, and they will do it willingly.
In addition to committing capital and matching employee donations on a regular basis, take it a step further by encouraging and sponsoring them to donate time and expertise to nonprofits and NGOs. This effort supports our community with valuable knowledge, but it also supports employees’ desire to be change-makers and adds additional meaning to their lives and livelihoods.
Hold Yourself And The Company Accountable
Measuring performance is essential—and it’s vital to hold yourself, your company and the team leading the charge accountable for the results. Like any other area of a business, a social impact program’s effectiveness will rise and fall, and like any business unit, you will have to adjust and evaluate regularly. That’s OK!
Last year, we released the findings of our first DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) report. I’ll be honest—the baseline report showed we had a lot of work to do to match the perspectives and experiences of our global customer base. But now we have a starting point. This kind of transparency is essential to make the changes needed in our recruiting and retention efforts, and we have KPIs and metrics in place.
We are accountable to deliver on our DEI goals, as well as our impact goals. I believe it is integral to our business strategy to deliver great outcomes for our core customer, employee and investor constituencies. The community is bigger than just us; this is something we can all learn.