Social Value and Social Impact: vital for business success - Business in the Community

Social Value and Social Impact: vital for business success

Post author image. Belinda Goodman
Belinda Goodman, Head of Responsible Business and Environment Advisory at Business in the Community (BITC), on why businesses should make a positive contribution to society and the environment.

In this cost-of-living crisis and at a time when the UK is demanding more than ever from the corporate sector, companies are grabbling with different terms; social impact, social value, responsible business, Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).

For me, the terms are unimportant and actually all of these are one and the same. A responsible business is one that delivers a positive societal and environmental contribution through core business. This is not just because it is the right thing to do, but a necessary thing to do for the future success of your business.

We know if we do not meet the Paris Agreement’s limiting of the planet’s warming to 1.5 degrees, approximately 50-75% of the global population could be exposed to life-threatening weather such as extreme heat and flooding1. Furthermore, the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have provided grave insight into the global ripple effect of disrupted supply chains, but the threat to coastal communities and infrastructure through climate change will likely be the greatest2. Globally, inflation has been high, with many households’ incomes not matching, resulting in lower disposable income3.

So, if you do not take care of society and the environment, you will have no business. No one will work for you, no one will buy your products and services, and you will not be able to deliver them anyway, because the land is on fire. 

How Business in the Community can help

For B2C companies or those delivering public contracts, it is right that we are using the language of social value4 and social impact (and both of these include a positive environmental contribution). But do we need to consider them as two separate things? I don’t think so.

It seems complicated, but Business in the Community (BITC) has been working with businesses on creating responsible business/social impact/social value strategies for over 40 years and our approach is a robust one that benefits businesses and communities. We believe that a company needs to understand the positive contribution it can make and stay in its lane, building on past success, rather than adapting to every stakeholder need or tender requirement on an ad-hoc basis.

To do this, we help businesses to:

  1. Define and map your stakeholders. Clarify who your community is (we would expect this to include current and future employees, geographical communities but also suppliers and customers).
  2. Conduct a needs analysis to understand the key issues affecting your community.
  3. Define your desired impact and understand your role in contributing to long-term, sustainable change.
  4. Partner to co-design and deliver interventions that add additional value to what is already out there.
  5. Tell whoever asks why you are doing what you are doing and why it is the most strategic approach.  

Now think about if it makes sense to carry out the above approach for a responsible business strategy and a social impact strategy and a social value strategy, separately? It baffles me that all strategic bones leave our bodies when we think about contributing to society. It is a business strategy and we need to focus our efforts and maximise our ROI, otherwise, what’s the point? 



1 Carbon Brief, In-depth Q&A: The IPCC’s sixth assessment on how climate change impacts the world, (2022).

2 Yale Environment, How Climate Change Is Disrupting the Global Supply Chain, (2022).

3 ONS, Inflation and cost of living gor household groups, UK, (October 2022).

4 What is Social Value and Why Does it Matter? ,,