CSR - making a difference?

By Lancashire Business View

05 Jul 2017

In association with

Increasing hours of company time is being volunteered to help communities. But how much of the benefit of this activity and the difference it makes is being measured?

By Keith Ward, RSM head of social impact advisory.

How can we be certain it is making the right difference to the right communities, or if it is simply ticking a box for annual report purposes?

The basis of most CSR reporting is inputs. For example, 100 hours given over to painting a nursery building.

At RSM we think the focus should be on evaluating the outcomes to user communities by addressing the following questions:- How was life before? What has been delivered? What difference has it made? Who else was involved in delivery? What might have happened without our involvement? And how long does the benefit last?

In practical terms the social impact created by CSR is the benefit that is created by the delivery of a service.

Establishing what life was like for the beneficiary before receipt of the activity, the nature of the activity carried out and what life is like as a result.

By asking the individual or those closest to delivery as a proxy and building up the narrative of change, you can build a picture of the impact that has been made.

The most common reason for not measuring social impact is an inability to quantify the information. Social impact reports are often criticised for having ‘outrageous’ claims of huge multipliers for ratios of return on investment.

How do you count the difference made by providing a mentoring service for vulnerable youngsters for one hour a week?

The answer is to make informed assumptions, using the best information available. Assumptions are made on life expectancy, retirement ages and stock market returns to support company pension provisions and a similar process can be followed to measure the impact of giving belief to a young person?

With a social impact report, we are looking to quantify how society costs are saved and benefits added, including the economic benefit created where there is an impact on earning capacity or productivity and the social benefit on individuals and communities.

The benefit to the company capturing this information is that, internally, it allows for a better understanding of the impact of support provided and how that support can be maximised.

Externally, the evaluated strands of social impact can be used to give a much more accurate picture of the impact of corporate social responsibility. This can be particularly important for recruitment, grant applications and strengthening your annual report.

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