Social Innovation in Responsible Business
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When you become a parent, it changes you.
I was always aware of child poverty as I am half Brazilian. When I visited family in Rio, I remember seeing that there were children my age growing up on the streets. It had a profound effect on me.
I spent much of my career as an accountant doing pro bono work and when that did not feel like enough, I moved to the charity sector working in international development, which took me all over the world to some amazing places and enabled me to learn about many global issues and solutions.
However, it was only when I became a parent that I had my idea to help change the lives of orphaned and abandoned children.
When former BP Chief Executive Lord Browne, one of the earliest proponents of corporate social responsibility (CSR), declared last year that the movement was “dead”, he was not alone in his cynicism. Such has been the worrying regularity of corporate scandals that the idea of business putting purpose or society before profit had for some time been attracting a large dose of suspicion. It is somewhat surprising, therefore, that it is the emergence of more controversy – this time in the charitable sector – that has prompted a reassessment of how important the contribution of business can be to society.
Hidden gems at the Home of Christmas Shopping
Early November saw Kensington Olympia come alive with all things magical and festive for the annual Spirit of Christmas fair. This ‘home of Christmas shopping’ in association with House & Gardens played host to hundreds of exhibitors selling everything from champagne and jewellery to holidays and garden design.
Of course the instinct to protect my children comes first, but the thought of any child, anywhere, living in a rubbish dump, sickens me. I believe everyone feels this way, parents especially. I was out shopping for my son’s baby clothes and thought to myself: if I could buy beautiful baby clothes and know the profit helps children in need, why would I buy anywhere else? Because I couldn’t find a way, I set up From Babies with Love.
Ask most businesses these days if they have a CSR policy and they’ll almost always say ‘yes’. Which is fine, I guess.
There’s an acknowledgement that business does have a responsibility to contribute to broader society, whether through charitable donations, allowing staff days off to undertake volunteer work, or whatever. Again, all fine.
Categorising corporate social responsibility as some kind of policy – a box to be ticked – for me undersells the importance of organisations with resource, talent, expertise, contacts, networks and funding being able to genuinely do some good.
One strand of Deloitte’s approach to this is the Social Innovation Pioneers programme. This invites applications from social enterprises, i.e. businesses which have social good as the key metric on their balance sheets, for a year’s worth of mentoring and business support from some of Deloitte’s senior people. The idea is that we can help them take a great idea and turn it into a great business, so they can amplify their intended benefit to society.
When I joined Deloitte in 2010 as an Analyst in the Strategy Consulting team, it was fairly early days for corporate social innovation. Corporate Responsibility (CR) was still very much focused on fundraising and charity days at Deloitte. Three years later social innovation is a key part of Deloitte’s CR programme and even, dare I say, its firm-wide strategy. CEO David Sproul is a vocal supporter of social enterprise and often recounts stories of Deloitte’s projects and involvement in the sector.
What I found most exciting at Deloitte is the number of people who believe in the potential of corporate social innovation and spend their own time developing initiatives and raising awareness. For these committed individuals across the firm, social innovation is a highly valued way to support scalable social businesses.
Taking up the role of Relationship Manager for the Social Innovation Pioneers programme has been one of the most inspirational and developmental activities I have ever undertaken at Deloitte.
In this role, my goal was to support my Pioneer to go to scale. This involved working closely for a year with The Brightside Trust, a social enterprise which provides a unique e-mentoring portal to universities, businesses and other charities, helping young people achieve their full potential through education, employment and self-employment.
I am an experienced management consultant and a certified Executive Coach. Executive coaching is a facilitative one-to-one, mutually designed relationship between a professional coach and a key contributor who has a powerful position in an organisation. My skills and knowledge came together perfectly and over the course of the year, I was able to provide sustained guidance, support and challenge that allowed Brightside to put in place strategies to develop and grow their business. On reflection, I believe the role empowered me to become a Business Coach to my Pioneer.
The Deloitte Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (DIIE) is an exclusive ten year partnership with the London Business School, which through its research, teaching and outreach activities, will enable our clients, people and wider society to access the latest Insights and tools needed to lead innovation within complex environments.The Deloitte Institute holds an annual programme of executive roundtable events in order to showcase the research arising from the Institute and to disseminate that research and its findings to a high level corporate audience.
An executive roundtable was held on January 30th led by Prof. Ioannis Ioannou and featuring Heather Hancock, Deloitte Managing Partner for Talent and Brand. The event was hosted by Sir Andrew Likierman and was attended by senior executives from major corporations and non-profits. In the video below, Ioannis and Heather summarise the roundtable discussion with Ioannis sharing some of his latest research on the drivers of corporate social innovation.
“In this project we explore which organizations engage in social innovation and why they do so. Social innovation refers to those product, process or business model innovations that are specifically designed to synergistically generate economic as well as environmental and social good. Social innovation is powerful because it harnesses the full power of profit-seeking businesses to invest in opportunities that tackle the world’s most acute challenges (e.g. climate change and global warming). We hope to provide a better understanding of how social and environmental issues are increasingly becoming embedded in the firms’ business models and the drivers for this trend. We also examine whether, when and how such embeddedness creates economic, social and environmental impact.” Ioannis Ioannou, Assistant Professor, Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Claire is Head of Community Investment at Deloitte, leading the firm’s major community and volunteering initiatives including our Skills and Education programmes and our support to social enterprise.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the panel session as part of a day-long Social Impact Workshop. It was hosted by Deloitte UK and attended by many of the Deloitte Social Innovation Pioneers—a programme that is working with 30 socially innovative businesses, providing them with a bespoke package of Deloitte support to help them mainstream and become investment-ready.
During the session, a significant part of the discussion revolved around how social businesses can demonstrate their impact in society with rigour and consistency. Someone from the floor made the very insightful remark that (to paraphrase) 'Surely this impact measurement stuff is only going to work and have real value if all businesses measure their performances in this way, not just ‘social businesses’. He took the words right out of my mouth.
I am part of a DTTL team that, along with clients and partners from other industries and sectors, is trying to ‘reimagine business’ and look again at the purpose of business. Can we recalibrate the contribution that our core business activities make to global society? At its most fundamental, isn’t business, hasn’t it always been, and shouldn’t it always be about building society?
The 2010 Spending Review may seem like a distant memory, but those settlements have cast a long shadow over social enterprises that depend on grants from local authorities. Council cuts have, for the most part, been front-loaded into 2011-12 and 2012-13, so across town halls in England and Wales, tough decisions to cut funding are being taken right now. Up to £5 billion will be cut from council and agency grants to charities over the period. One particular paradox is that the cuts may affect poorer areas disproportionately. A recent ACEVO report showed how, in the 20 most deprived local authorities in England and Wales, 450 organisations have lost £142.5 million, compared with a £3.6 million cut for 22 organisations in the 20 least deprived areas.
But it isn’t all bad. The current financial pressure on services creates opportunity for social enterprises to increase their share of delivery responsibility across local public services. The big two sectors: social care and employment support – that together account for half of the social enterprise market - are about to be joined by another – health. Social enterprises which have been (or will be) spun out from the NHS are now responsible for delivering community services worth £900 million each year. A recent NAO report showed how 57 social enterprises left the NHS by the end of 2011. Most were formed in the past year to run community services after the government said these could no longer be provided by PCTs. In education also, a campaign was launched this month to encourage HE and FE institutions to spend £1 billion buying services from social enterprises. Like in other sectors, the key incentive for social enterprises doing business with HE and FE commissioners is to acquire high-value, long-term contracts to give individual organisations the confidence to attract investment and grow.