How companies of any size can invest in social impact projects – WAU
Social impact projects bring benefits to society and employees, the strengthening of the brand and even economic results for the company. Understand why and how to start your social responsibility actions and the impacts of this initiative on your business.
“When I grow up, I will be an astronaut”. That’s how many kids talk, isn’t it? They dream big and believe that being big is one of the requirements to achieve their goals.
This is also the perception of many entrepreneurs when it comes to the development of social impact projects. They set goals, draw growth plans and guess what! Year in, year out, they continue with the same goal of being great.
Do you know what that means? That aiming for growth is necessary and continuous in the business world and that there will not be a moment when managers will want something different.
So why delay your social involvement? We have solid reasons for your business to start a social project as soon as possible, regardless of its size. Here are some numbers:
- according to Content Trends 2019, 72.5% of companies respondents use Content Marketing for brand recognition and strengthening;
- in the Markestein survey, 70% of consumers they say they are interested in knowing what brands are developing as social and environmental responsibility actions;
- in this same research, 44% of consumers respondents said they were willing to pay more for products and services if such an increase resulted in the ongoing maintenance of companies’ social and environmental projects.
That is, for businesses that want to grow, strengthen the brand, win customers and explore new market differentials, the development of a social project now, not in the future, may be the best growth strategy. But, of course, this is not so simple.
In addition to all the planning, the definition of the project and the study of costs, it is still necessary to align the idea with the company’s culture and image.
Still in the Markstein survey, 74% of consumers they said that large companies that carry out social actions have self-promotion as their first objective. In addition, 73% said they believe that such programs are designed to compensate for the damage that such corporations cause.
In summary, there is a line that separates social impact projects that bring positive returns for stakeholders and the company, and those that are only superficial actions.
For this reason, we have prepared this content to share our experience in the design of WAU.org and the other social actions of the company, present some important concepts in the area of development and social responsibility and inspire you and your company to create a social impact project. relevant.
Social responsibility: basic concepts and historical context
The evolution of social responsibility actions makes its importance very clear, but here it is worth defining the concept to define its domains.
The concept of social responsibility
It is a movement and the set of actions created voluntarily by private sector companies that aim to bring improvements to the society in which they operate and their internal public, that is, employees and partners.
It is worth emphasizing the term “voluntary”, as such actions are not associated with any mandatory compensation imposed by the public administration, nor with good practices that seek tax deductions.
For example, the Colégio Logosófico de Belo Horizonte announced at the beginning of 2019 that it would begin work on its unit in the city of Nova Lima.
To this end, in addition to obtaining the appropriate environmental licenses, the school will also make a contribution to the monetary fund that the Conduct Adjustment Term (TAC) determines for all projects in the region.
This amount, in turn, is used to carry out works to mitigate the road impact that such buildings and developments cause with the increase in the flow of people and cars.
In addition, the school will also make an internal street to speed up the loading and unloading of students and staff in an attempt to further ease traffic.
That is, the contribution that will bring benefits to traffic is mandatory, but the parking lot that speeds up the movement of students at the beginning and end of classes is not. The first, therefore, does not characterize a social responsibility action although it brings improvements, but the second, yes.
Do you realize that we do not always categorize some strategies and actions of companies in the right way? Is your business already taking social responsibility actions and not even realizing it?
This confusion is natural, and, why not say, historical. Mandatory actions such as those provided for in this TAC in Nova Lima, tax incentives that the government offers to promote social initiatives and those that, in fact, are voluntary, have been mixing over time.
Historical context of social actions in 3 acts
The relationship and working conditions in previous centuries were much more archaic. The class divisions of society were very limited and had a strong influence on human interactions. Check below the stages of the evolution of social actions.
Industrial Revolution: the peak of unsanitary working conditions and environmental degradation
At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the owner of the industry cared little or nothing about the welfare of his employee or the environment he exploited.
Fatal work accidents due to lack of protection for employees and environmental disasters were very common at that time, mainly because the growth of industries also encouraged the emergence of cities in their surroundings, but not always with the necessary healthy conditions.
Illnesses spread more quickly and competition for jobs made people accept to work harder and earn less. The disposal of industrial waste in rivers intoxicated cities and their residents. It was an untenable situation.
Labor conditions, however, began to change precisely at that time, largely due to strikes and appeals from workers.
Recreation and rest areas, lunch breaks, definition of workload and minimum age for work started to appear. Although today they are minimum conditions and provided for in laws, at that time they were not unanimous, but a voluntary act of some industrialists.
Philanthropy: social investments based on paternalistic feelings
Experiencing a time like the Industrial Revolution and seeing such injustices and degrading conditions should not have been a simple thing, and with that, some bourgeois businessmen initiated voluntary improvement actions. But in this case, for personal and philanthropic reasons.
Many famous American universities were founded out of generous donations from the American business community, for example.
They created funds for the creation of a hospital or donated entire collections to museums. Such actions provided great benefits for society, even disconnected from their donors’ primary activities.
Henry Ford made advances and improvements in the benefits offered to his employees, and Andrew Carnegie, an American owner of one of the largest industrial conglomerates in the 19th century, made history with his actions and publications that valued and justified his philanthropy.
Two of the lawsuits are iconic in the history of social responsibility. The first, in 1919, was when the group of shareholders went to court against Ford, who wanted to allocate part of the profits to salary incentives for employees.
The second, in 1953, was also a complaint by Smith Manufacturing Company shareholders against donating funds to Princeton University.
This, however, had a favorable decision for philanthropy, and, notably, influenced the way the justice analyzed such questions and how companies and shareholders perceived these attitudes favorably.
Awakening of society: better directions for social actions
Philanthropy actions continued to happen, as well as new incentive laws were also created so that companies were encouraged to do more.
Labor Law has evolved and entities such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) – a tripartite agency of the United Nations (UN) -, where workers, companies and governments have their representatives, have been strengthened and brought new contributions and awareness to society.
Naturally, people started to question what were the benefits generated for companies and society. After all, corruption was plaguing several countries, compensatory actions were not perceived as improvements, environmental disasters continued to happen and news about the hole in the ozone layer worried everyone.
Society then began to achieve the transparency it demanded, as well as to strengthen its voice. Globalization and access to information meant that stakeholders could question and give their opinion.
The change in commercial relations, market competition and changes in consumer behavior have also made companies more concerned with their reputation and image.
Philanthropy really changed the purposes of the actions, making the proposed improvements to the work environment and society no longer a search for minimum and acceptable conditions, and made it focus on people’s well-being.
Its conception, however, continued to evolve, causing social responsibility to change, assuming a greater purpose and a genuine bias.
In other words, social projects started to have a relationship with the company and bring noticeable results to workers and society, with the sole purpose of positively transforming current conditions, and not only bringing visibility and institutional advertising.
And this is where we ask: who said that only big companies should be concerned and can promote such a change?
A statistic that consolidates this questioning is that, at present, 99% of companies in London and the USA are classified as small or medium sized.
Have you ever imagined how this amount can make the difference we need? If your company needs inspiration, just get to know some cases and social impact projects that are successful.
Inspiring cases: successful social projects
To create a project with a genuine social impact, it is very important to align your purposes and your tools with what already exists in the business. And understanding the concept of this idea from examples from other companies is a great exercise.
So, the idea here is to bring inspirations. Some of them are from large companies, but that does not mean that your company should follow that path, but just understand how the strategy was set up and then use it as a reference.
Ben & Jerry’s
The internationally known ice cream brand has a very broad social impact project. She works both for environmental causes related to global warming and for ensuring equal civil rights for homosexual couples.
One of the highlights of its social responsibility strategy is that, in addition to promoting its actions, it also participates in campaigns and movements that are aligned with its causes and values.
And, of course, it does so with all its irreverence. Among its actions, we can mention:
- Peace, Love and Ice Cream, in which they foster institutions and movements that promote peace and social and economic justice for all;
- Fair Trade, also known internationally as Fairtrade, where they give preference to hiring farmers from developing countries to supply their raw materials, ensuring that they have opportunities in the competitive market;
- If it’s melted, it’s ruined, which, in free translation, means that if it melts, it is ruined. It is a campaign against global warming in which all ice cream parlors and social channels collect signatures to join the Global Climate Movement.
These actions unfold in many others that preach society’s awareness and action. When the WAU The Vote (RTV) Campaign was launched to encourage young people to participate in the American elections, Ben & Jerry’s launched Free Cone Day, where ice cream cones were free.
Thus, long lines of young people formed in stores and RTV managed to register an institution record of 11,000 new voters in one day. Simple and efficient, right?
In addition, the company also has the Ben & Jerry’s foundation that engages its employees, forms action groups and makes decisions about causes to which they should contribute.
In other words, the company’s culture and values are so consolidated that the initiatives are also created by the company’s employees.
Land champions in 2019. This is the most recent title that the adventure products brand, Patagonia, has received from the UN.
Besides incorporate sustainability into all its production processes, the brand is also recognized for its investments and support for actions to protect the environment, where, of course, its main customers use its products.
Among its social actions, we have:
- the use of recycled materials in 70% of its products, in addition to the commitment to expand to 100% by the year 2025;
- they replaced conventional cotton with hemp and organic cotton, which have production with less environmental impacts and restoration actions;
- since 1985, they have donated 1% of annual sales for the preservation and restoration of the environment. Its founder, Yvon Chouinard, along with Craig Matthews, created the non-profit organization called “1% for the Planet”, to encourage and teach other companies to do the same;
Chouinard often reports that the Patagonia brand was created to help save the planet, and this clearly demonstrates his leadership position.
Leaders engaged in social impact projects are crucial to its success. It is not by chance that his efforts were recognized by the most important global entity dealing with the topic.
If the Patagonian case stands out for the role of leadership in its social actions, IBM’s P-TECH is an example of successful alignment between the company’s know-how and its contribution to society.
Launched in 2011, in partnership with educators from New York City, the program aims to train professionals with the necessary skills for the digital revolution in which we live.
In this case, it trains young people to complete high school, technical and higher education, focused on the STEM area (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with practices in the work environment and mentoring in the private sector.
Due to the complexity of the project, it depends on partnerships with local governments. London and other Latin American countries are already part, and in 2019, another 20 have already announced their intention to join P-TECH.
The training lasts an average of 3 years and, in 2020, the forecast is that 10,000 students will start their studies in Latin America.
Another elementary point for the success of environmental impact projects is the exclusive dedication of a person or a sector to the company’s ideas and actions.
Ambev brings a rich example about this. The VOA educational program was developed to take mentoring and advanced notions of management to the third sector, and, initially, it was worked in parallel by the HR sector.
But the demand has grown so much and the effects have been so positive that, currently, his dedication is exclusive and has the full support of the board.
According to data from the VOA official website, 115 NGOs benefited, 5 million people impacted and 12 thousand hours of their employees donated for the mentoring of third sector managers.
Nice, isn’t it? This donation of know-how and hours of work is a very efficient model for small or medium-sized companies that want to work on some social responsibility action.
This was one of the actions we carried out here at the company, the project called One WAU, which we explain below.
Websites Are Us Projects: the design of our social actions
From the cases we have mentioned, it is clear that the involvement of the leadership, the strengthening of the culture among employees, the directing of actions towards areas of business knowledge and the focus on what is really relevant to society are some of the pillars for success, right?
Here at Websites Are Us they have also always guided our actions, including those that involve incentive programs, as is the case of the Elas Festival, produced 100% by women, and the Zumbi Culture Award, which values black culture.
The conception of the WAU.org project brings all these elements that we mentioned. To begin with, this has always been a wish of the company’s founders, so their support was guaranteed.
But as the company has experienced rapid growth, it was not possible to run a project of such greatness and importance in parallel. So, the next decision was to choose someone to dedicate themselves exclusively to their development.
Benchmarking and the study of other models, such as the one we proposed when citing cases, was also part of our creation process, in addition to, of course, mixing our culture and our know-how to design a project of relevance to our stakeholders .
Thus was born WAU.org, which aims to generate growth opportunities for social and youth initiatives.
The idea was to open up opportunities for people who didn’t have them, share knowledge with young people who could follow successful paths and use our know-how marketing to give the visibility that NGOs and social institutions needed for their actions.
To make all of this happen, however, it would be necessary to engage our employees and ensure that they could dedicate part of their work time to the project.
So, we decided to stop the whole team for a day. And, as every manager knows, time is money.
However, this action generated direct and indirect results much more substantial than the amount spent. In addition to positively impacting the target audience, which were NGOs and their causes, WAU Volunteer Day also brought:
- increasing the pride of our employees in being part of a socially responsible company;
- attraction of new talents who identified with the action;
- differentiated and gamified experience for employees, who found themselves in unusual teams and working hard for the same result.
In our case, in addition to the investment of a whole day dedicated to promoting the WAU.org platform, we also spent money on prizes, promotional material and snacks, but nothing compared to the plural return we had.
WAU University is one of the references in content and training for professionals in the marketing area, and, for each course sold on the platform, another one is donated to a young person who needs development opportunities or an NGO leader.
In partnership with the international NGO Junior Achievement, we received students from public institutions so that they can experience professional areas of interest.
Experiences like these inspire future professionals, demonstrate the reality of the market and let them know which directions to follow for their academic development.
Here at Websites Are Us, in addition to knowing sectors related to Digital Marketing, it is also possible to visit areas of development and IT, as well as conventional ones, such as Human Resources and Finance.
That is, we have an interesting mix of social responsibility actions over here. While some demand investments, others need only the dedication of our time or the donation of a service that is already ready.
So, for a medium or small business, which one is the most advisable? And how to start?
Action plan: how to develop your social impact project in 2020
The first step, without a doubt, is to involve the business managers and make them inspire the rest of the team. Then, brainstorming can help you find a cause to embrace.
Brainstorming, when different professionals come together to think about new ideas and solutions for a demand, can bring interesting views on social and environmental problems experienced around the organization.
So it is very valuable that it is done with professionals from different areas, backgrounds and hierarchical levels. Each of them will have a different perspective and experience in relation to the society and the market in which the company operates.
Use successful cases and social networks to get inspired
Knowing cases of social impact projects is very important, since they help to understand the relationship with the companies’ core business and even what causes are still in need of attention.
Another interesting measure, especially for small and medium-sized companies that cannot invest a lot, is to look for ideas on social networks.
Some profiles are dedicated exclusively to sharing good deeds, whether from people or companies. Others are from entities that report risky situations, ignored problems or neglected communities. Some examples are:
These examples can create important insights for your brainstorming and make a social project developed with what society values most: relevance.
Find out what are the main types of social actions
Some social actions are more traditional, even due to the historical context we have pointed out. Among them we have:
That can happen in several ways, from donating part of the profits to non-governmental institutions and also defining internal policies, such as doubling the donation that an employee makes to an organization, for example
That is when the company dedicates part of its talents, especially professionals, to help in social causes.
The donation of 1% of working hours is a great example, which, incidentally, is followed by many companies, including Salesforce.
Promoting changes in their production chains, buying carbon credits and contributing to causes related to the environment.
Companies that preach sustainability can also be included in this category, after all, they are reducing the impact of their activities on nature and, in many cases, reducing their consumption expenses.
Ethical work practices
Promoting equality in the corporate environment, fighting prejudices, ensuring respect for differences and offering fairer benefits to its workers, such as extended maternity leave.
By making regular tax payments, participating in compensation programs for society and offering salaries that allow your employees to remain unaffected by changes in the local economy.
Define company objectives
What is the purpose of your company? When Patagonia decided to change its main raw material, it wanted to reduce the environmental damage in its production chain, even though this represented an increase in the final value of its products.
IBM wanted to train professionals who were ready to deal with the new challenges of Digital Transformation, and, who knows, absorb these talents in their staff.
Other companies aim to:
- improve the conditions of its primary suppliers;
- correct social injustices;
- helping, for example, 50 needy families or 400 young people;
- become references in social responsibility.
Of course the genuine goal is to help, give back. But this needs to be translated into numbers, or quantified. For this reason, it is essential to rationalize what is expected from a social impact project. A good tip for this is to follow a checklist:
- align the company’s objectives with what is relevant to customers, society and employees;
- focus on initiatives that have real impacts;
- look for statistical data on social demand to identify possible emotional connections between the public and the company.
Trace the actions necessary to achieve these goals
In this step