Are you measuring your business’ impact as well as you think?

Post author image. Annie Gosling

5 June 2019 12:00

Alex Ferrand, Responsible Business Tracker® Project Manager discusses how this new tool can help companies understand what success in responsible business looks like and how they will know when it has been achieved. 

Consumers are looking to business to take the lead on real change in social issues – according to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2019, more than three in four Britons believe that chief executive officers should take the lead on change rather than waiting for government to impose it – up 19 percentage points from 20181. However this has to be real change, and businesses will only be able to prove this by properly measuring impact.

There are two problems with this. The first is that businesses sometimes confuse outputs and impact. For example, a certain number of people informed about a mental health programme is often the type of thing reported in external communications, but that is an output, not an impact. An impact would be measuring how many lives have been affected by the initiative.   The second issue is more complex. Measuring outputs in itself is not problematic if it leads up to measuring impact, but creating impact is not instant and unlikely to happen in a quarterly reporting cycle. Vital reporting indicators should be agreed upfront so that short-term milestones and outputs are recorded against a backdrop of longer term assessment of real impact.

Business in the Community’s new tool, The Responsible Business Tracker®, challenges businesses to think in this way and differs from the rest of the market by focusing on action, not words. We ask businesses to consider what impact they want to have before they embark on programmes. This strategic thinking means that before they start businesses understand what success looks like and how they will know when it is achieved. Our Forerunner cycle showed that even leading businesses are currently struggling to do this well.   The Tracker encourages business to act strategically and rewards demonstrable impact. Upon completing the Tracker we can tell a business if they are working strategically in the area they can make the most difference. We can assess how well that impact is being monitored. Although there is a numerical score given to track progress and measure against a sector average, this is not about league tables, but about understanding gaps, working for improvement and sharing best practice. 

Business in the Community believe in strength in numbers, working together we can be more than the sum of our parts. To measure impact effectively we need to learn from others, sharing experiences of what works for different elements of responsible business. From both an economic and moral perspective, responsible business is too important to ignore. Now is the time, together, to start tackling the challenge of measuring long term change to make the real societal change we desperately need.