To maximize results from corporate citizenship investments, CSR professionals must be sure to measure and evaluate the impacts created by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities. By properly measuring impact, companies gain the data and insights necessary to communicate maximum business and social value to stakeholders, strengthen corporate citizenship programs, and demonstrate a strategic link between corporate citizenship and business success. However, strategically measuring corporate citizenship means moving beyond the reporting of activities and outputs, and instead emphasizing outcomes and long-term impacts.
Today, corporate citizenship reports commonly provide data on activities and outputs, such as the number of hours volunteered by employees, the financial or in-kind donations provided to nonprofit partners, or the amount of material recycled. Most of the focus to date has been on counting activities and outputs, rather than measuring outcomes and impacts. In reality, only a handful of companies have examined the actual long-term environmental, social, and governance (ESG) impacts of corporate citizenship initiatives. However, there has been a push recently to provide evidence of long-term, sustainable change.
Many corporate citizenship professionals still use the terms “outputs,” “outcomes,” and “impact” synonymously, but they are in fact distinct concepts. To illustrate, consider how a company might measure each of these concepts for a literacy tutoring program run by employee volunteers. First, outputs are the direct results of program activities. For a tutoring program, this includes information like the number of tutoring sessions provided by employees, the number of students in the tutoring program, or the number of books purchased by the company. Outcomes are more complex, as they refer to specific changes in attitudes, behaviors, knowledge, skills, status, or level of functioning expected to result from program activities. An outcome of a tutoring program could be improved standardized tests scores in the school or more books checked out of the library. Finally, impact refers to an even longer-term effect, in the form of an organizational, community, and/or system level change expected to result from program activities. Impact might include improved conditions, increased capacity, and/or changes in policy. For a tutoring program, the impact could be increased college enrollment or increased average salaries in the community.
Companies simply counting the number of activities and outputs are missing out on a valuable opportunity to build value out of corporate citizenship activities. By understanding the long-term impact of corporate citizenship programs, companies are able to determine and communicate increased return on corporate citizenship investments.
In January, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship will host a webinar exploring how resilient businesses can build and measure corporate citizenship policies that produce meaningful impacts both at the company and community level. Join us on Wednesday, January 10 at 12:00 p.m. ET to hear from corporate citizenship professionals with programs that evaluate results to create change.