Glance at most ESG reports and you’ll likely find the focus is on environmental initiatives, while social considerations feel like an afterthought – often boiling down to not much more than a couple of volunteer days… (Sound familiar?)
So, how can businesses elevate the ‘S’ in ESG? That’s what Visionpath founder and CEO, Patrick Philpott, set out to discuss as a guest speaker at Emperor’s talk, ‘Beyond compliance: Making social value meaningful’ back in June 2023.
After looking at every new ESG report from the FTSE 350 and identifying the best-in-class, Emperor identified three key themes that contribute to impactful reporting when it comes to social value. Want to make your business’ social value meaningful? Here’s how:
1. Support diversity, inclusion and social mobility
“Companies are increasingly reporting on their approach to diversity and inclusion (or EDI), as well as their support of communities,” explains Oliver MacMahon, Consultant at Emperor. “Many are specifically reporting on their contribution to social mobility and the benefits they see to them as a business.
"65% of companies discuss their support of social mobility programmes to develop the next generation of workers"
“These developments are prompted by a variety of things – specifically stakeholder demand and regulatory requirements. But we also see that companies are recognising the benefits of creating a diverse and inclusive workplace and generally being a force for good.
“There are two primary ways companies are discussing social mobility initiatives,” continues MacMahon. “Firstly, 65% of companies discuss their support of social mobility programmes to develop the next generation of workers. Companies are trying to upskill unemployed youth to increase the macro pool of workers at their availability, link them to employment opportunities, and allow them to effectively contribute.
"Think about what your stakeholders want to know and what they want to see – and that’s not just your investors or shareholders, but also your customers, your staff, and your communities. What matters to them?"
“Companies are also looking at social mobility through the lens of diversity and inclusion,” explains MacMahon. “They’re working to upskill and secure employment for individuals from minority and disadvantaged populations. These companies, as well as wanting to increase their pool of viable candidates, are acknowledging that a strong, inclusive economy is a better economy for everyone.”
2. Tell a meaningful story
Paint a picture: tell a story about the work you’re doing and why it matters to the businesses,” Philpott suggests. “Think about what your stakeholders want to know and what they want to see – and that’s not just your investors or shareholders, but also your customers, your staff, and your communities. What matters to them? Make sure you’re joining the dots and connecting that up to their interests.
“It’s not about linking the social value to financial outcomes in a hard, bottom-line sense – we’re in a world of triple-bottom-line, where business has moved on. It’s about how you connect what you’re doing to those other outcomes. Everything you do from a social value point of view as a business, you’ll have a business reason for doing it – it’s how you will have got it off the ground internally, it’s how you will have driven that forward in the organisation.
"It’s not about linking the social value to financial outcomes in a hard, bottom-line sense – we’re in a world of triple-bottom-line, where business has moved on."
“It’s about making sure that translates for all those stakeholders you’re talking to, so they understand why you’re doing it and the value and the impact it has for the business in all respects. That’s the key: really understanding what your stakeholders want to know – how do you then tell a compelling story? How do you join the dots between their interests, what you’re doing, and also how it’s driving the business forward?”
3. Emphasise the importance of employee engagement
“Many employees are feeling more disconnected from their organisations than ever before,” says Katie Eustace, Senior Engagement Strategist for Emperor. “Employees are looking for ways to feel more connected to their organisations – they’re looking for that sense of belonging; they’re looking for those opportunities to forge friendships that don’t involve a computer screen; and they’re looking for ways to make a positive impact.
"It’s not just about communicating to employees about your social impact strategies, but offering ways for them to get involved and participate."
“That’s where opportunities to share their voice and to get involved in a company’s social initiatives are really powerful. It’s not just about communicating to employees about your social impact strategies, but offering ways for them to get involved and participate.
“Speaking from my own experience: Emperor worked with Patrick and [the Visionpath] team on our RISE apprenticeship programme, and I was lucky enough to be invited along to one of the schools to recruit people. Being involved in that experience – taking time out of my day to speak to teens about what I do, what their interests are, and where their career could go in this space – was really impactful for me… I left with a huge buzz and feeling reminded of why I love what I do.
“Not only that, I could see first-hand the importance of the work Patrick and his team does, and how I’ve played a small part in supporting this programme that will help the diversity of Emperor, but also help the diversity of the wider creative industry. That’s the power this sort of work can have if you can offer ways for your employees to get involved.”
Want to transform your ESG strategy into a genuine business differentiator and force for social good? Offering apprenticeships for socially diverse young people lets you incorporate social responsibility in your business strategy. To find out how we can help, get in touch.
Want to learn more about best-practice ESG reporting? Download the Emperor’s report, ’Building Business Resilience: Progressive FTSE 350 Reporting Insights’.