How Can We Measure, Manage and Get the Most From Our Social Impact?

Join us for a live written discussion with a panel of experts to discuss how businesses can measure, manage and get the most from their social impact.

Live Panel

Thursday, 27 February, 10-11am EST (3pm-4pm GMT) ADD TO CALENDAR


There is a management saying attributed to P. Ducker: “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

Correlations exist between business performance and their social impacts. However, in comparison to the direct business impacts poor governance has or the scientific rigour available to measuring environmental impact - social factors can be perceived as the tricky cousin when it comes to measuring and communicating their impacts. That only 3% of asset managers, asked during a 2016 survey, cite social as the most important factor out of environment, social and governance (ESG) could reflect this lack of understanding.

As a result, Business Fights Poverty will be focusing on this theme throughout 2020. Our aims are to explore the latest thinking and practice on questions surrounding social impact and business. Questions such as: Why is measuring social impact important for business and their stakeholders? How can businesses measure social impact most effectively? And what are some of the best examples of measuring social impact?

The outcome will be to encourage transparent, shared understanding of social impact by business, and to help stakeholders better understand businesses’ social impact and deepen their awareness of businesses that are going above and beyond in their delivery of social impact.

The work will be wrapped within a wider narrative of the important contribution of business to tackling the SDGs, as part of the UN Decade of Action, with stories and examples of social impact.


Andrew Means, Senior Director Global Impact Data Strategy, Salesforce,org

Careen Abb, Positive Impact Finance, Programme Lead, UNEP Finance Initiative

Dan Neale, Transformation Lead, Social, World Benchmarking Alliance

Hannah Clayton, Manager, Communities and Human Rights, International Council on Mining and Metals

Justin Perrettson, Head of Global Engagements, Novozymes

Maike von Heymann, Head of Collaborative Regional Development, Anglo American

Olivia Prentice, COO & Head of Content, Impact Management Project

Rabayl Mirza, Impact Lead, UNDP

Sinead Duffy, Head of NGO Engagement, Bayer

Moderator: Katie Hyson, Director, Thought Leadership, Business Fights Poverty


Q1. Why is measuring social impact good for business? What is the business case for investing in measuring social impact?

Q2. How do you measure social impact efficiently / effectively for business and it’s stakeholders? How can a business increase or maximise its social impact? (particularly from a system level)

Q3. Where are the current gaps in social impact measurement? And what could be some of the possible solutions to these?

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Ok, thank you for the heads up. I am ready.


Q2, Measuring social impact is more believable when the metrics are taken from the perspective of the target community/stakeholders. Nothing can be more dubious and disturbing than the stakeholder/communities denying the claims listed in the glossy pages of a corporate report that shows everything is great…

Q4: The measures used today in social impact create a similar situation than green washing because they are not comparable. A meter is comparable only if there is a traceable reference unit - today it is the constant speed of light made available by measuring a laser. We do not have a social laser.
Current social measurement cannot be compared to each other - we just think they are because they are a figure. Social indicator counts and figures do not represent information that can be traced back to a reference unit such as social value since there is no constant that has been developed - yet. We need data and metrology (science of measurements) to create a reference and then a linear scale/gradient with traceable reference unit like the meter. To build this defining meaningful social value for people is a first step. How do you define social value and what data or measures can be used that is comparable?

Looking forward to the discussion!

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Good afternoon,
You are right that impact measurements are almost impossible to compare across companies, given the differences in programmes. Attempting to link it back to financial impacts (e.g. £ saved or £ created) is one route and addresses your point about standardised measures, but this misses much of the non-financial value inherent in many of these programs - measures of self esteem, learning, etc. I too am interested in opportunities to standardise some of the metrics we have at our disposal, while also recognising the need for impact to reflect the specific dimensions of each program.
One line of enquiry could be to reflect on the role that qualitative measurement, and in particular case studies, can play in measuring impact? Is all good impact measurement quantitative, or can a place be made for qualitative analysis as well, and if so, what are the hallmarks of good qualitative impact measurement? These are interesting questions that where I would welcome the perspectives of others.

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Will there be a transcript of the questions and answers that can be shared after the discussion?
Many thanks

Good evening from Istanbul!

I’ll take the first question. Impact management is a commitment companies make that over time accrues many benefits and unlocks many opportunities that help drive brand and reputation.

At UNDP’s Business Call to Action (BCtA) initiative we work with member companies using BCtA’s online Impact Lab to consistently gather feedback from their stakeholders at the base of the economic pyramid (BOP) who are most affected by business decisions. Working directly with member companies to develop impact frameworks aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, we at BCtA have learned that companies leverage impact measurement and management to deepen stakeholder engagement, gain customer insights, assess market opportunities and risks, and design effective products and services that better match the needs of clients . Impact management is an internal management practice that can validate assumptions and provide direction for improving performance.

A good example of how inclusive business initiatives can be beneficial is the case of BCtA member company DBL Group, a large textile and apparel manufacturer in Bangladesh. They were facing many challenges with absenteeism and retention, especially amongst its low-income women employees. In response they rolled out inclusive initiatives that reduced cost of living, improved childcare and provided leadership opportunities for employees which helped curb absenteeism and retention.
With impact measurement DBL also gained insights on the how their inclusive initiatives affected their employees and gathered feedback on how this strategy helped improve employee retention.

Another example is BCtA’s member L’OCCITANE’s approach to impact management which has brought many gains for the company, including increased resilience to market variability, secure prices and increased producer confidence. For example, in 2018, shea butter production was affected by bad climate conditions and the price of nuts doubled. However, their shea butter supply remained relatively stable during this time as their orders were prioritized over other clients that were not committed to direct stakeholder feedback and engagement.

Moreover, understanding and managing impact is the most concrete way for businesses to contribute to the SDGs.

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Hi all, We will be starting the LIVE part of this online written discussion in around 8 mins.

though I am loving all the comments coming through already. We will try to respond to these as we go along too…so please do keep’um coming.

Cameron, yes the full transcript will remain up after the LIVE portion of the discussion - so you can continue to post, comment and view. We will also write up a summary.

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I can speak from the point of rural development. Each engagement will be different, each community will be different in their needs, as will corporates who engage these stakeholder communities in ways that are unique to the corporation. We had a feeding program for a small school in a depressed area and we partnered with a club and the school itself to conduct a feeding program everyday for six months. Two months before the program was implemented, we took measurements of the students e.g. BMI, class performance, eating habits, etc. after three months of implementation the BMI readings increased, the class performance of all students improved and they had shifted from eating junk food to vegetables. After, the sixth month the metrics showed improvement on all scales. The metrics was enough to convince the executive committee to replicate the program in another school. This is just a simple example of how metrics can help in the decision making, particularly where funds are strictly monitored and new potential partnerships are being discussed.

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Hello to everyone, this is the LIVE portion of our online written discussion.

Could I ask each of our panellists to first introduce themselves?

Hi, I’m Hannah Clayton and I lead ICMM’s work on social performance and human rights. ICMM is a CEO led industry association made up of 27 global mining and metals companies that is solely focused on improving the social and environmental performance of the industry. We’re also thinking this year about how to measure and report social impact more consistently as a sector, so we’re delighted to be participating in this conversation.

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Hi, I’m Dan Neale and I lead social and human rights issues within the World Benchmarking Alliance - which is looking to assess 2,000 keystone companies on their contribution to the SDGs

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Hi everyone, it is a pleasure to be here today! My name is Daniel Fernandez and I run the day to day of the Barclays Social Innovation Facility (SIF). SIF, created in 2012, is an internal incubator in Barclays that supports the launch of new products and services by connecting the purpose, profit and people’s agendas. We work with colleagues across the organization and provide them with funding and other tools, so that they can turn their initial ideas into profitable social innovations.

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Hi Everyone from snowy Chicago. I lead Global Impact Data Strategy for I come with a background in helping organizations use data and technology to measure and manage their social impact.


I thought it was a live connection! not written conversation! :frowning:

Our first questions today:

Q1: Why is measuring social impact good for business? What is the business case for investing in measuring social impact?

Hi everyone, Sinead Duffy from Bayer. I’m on the sustainability team.

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Hi, I am Maike and I am with Anglo American, a global mining company. I focus on socio-economic development and partnerships at Anglo.

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Hello everybody, I’m Rabayl Mirza and I am the Impact Specialist at UNDP’s Business Call to Action initiative. We work directly with our member companies to develop their measure and manage their impact on the SDGs, using BCtA’s online Impact Lab!

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