What’s Trending—Using Your Business as a Force for Good

This blog post is co-bylined by Sheila Herrling, SVP, Social Innovation at the Case Foundation and Hardik Savalia, Senior Associate, Standards, at B Lab—a nonprofit organization dedicated to using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems.

It’s undeniable; entrepreneurship is experiencing a culture shift. Everyday we hear more stories about the power of business to be a force for good. It’s no longer enough for an enterprise to earn a good profit. There’s a growing expectation that it will contribute to society and to a sustainable future. In his State of the Union Address, even President Obama articulated the need for businesses to get serious about improving their social and environmental impact. He stressed how businesses can do right by their workers, customers and communities, in addition to generating great profits.

Heeding the Call–Corporations committed to positive impact

Urgent social needs—access to energy, education, healthcare, clean water—don’t show signs of decline, making it clear that philanthropic and government resources alone won’t be sufficient to address them all. Communities around the world will need committed entrepreneurs and investors to help drive the next wave of great social change and environmental conservation.

Luckily, more than 1,600 companies including Patagonia and Warby Parker have taken the lead in this growing movement, by completing an extensive certification process to become B Corps. Yet, we believe that if we’re going to make real progress on social and environmental issues, we have to empower all companies, no matter the industry, location or size, with the tools to benchmark, measure and compare their positive impact on workers, communities and the environment. After all, how can any business start to improve their impact, without first knowing where they stand?

Through our partnership, we at B Lab and the Case Foundation have created the B Impact Assessment to do just this, and it’s already being used by more than 40,000 businesses in 80 countries. We’ve also recently released an enhanced, more user-friendly version of the Assessment to make it easier for any team member—ranging from CEO, to intern, to manager—to start this exercise confidentially for their business.

Ready to see it for yourself? Check out the new assessment!

B Impact Assessment SH

The Assessment takes users on a step-by-step journey through a variety of best practices that have already been adopted by leading companies. For example, what percent of the company’s workers receive a living wage? The tool provides examples from companies like Ben & Jerry’s on how they’ve successfully implemented a living wage program for all of their employees.

We believe there’s no single way to build a better business and the initial baseline assessment is the first step on a pathway to improvement. After completing the first, quick assessment, which on average takes about 30 minutes, we encourage companies to come back and use the built-in tools to set goals, create an action plan and start implementing those best practices to realize better social outcomes.

B Impact Report

Join the Movement–Use your business to drive social change.

The B Corps community and the Case Foundation, together are proud that more than 1,600 companies have fully committed to do their part as certified B Crops—redefining success for business—and that another 40,000 companies have shown an interest in doing better. We’re excited to invite all businesses to join this movement, and measure your ability to build stronger communities, create environmentally sustainable operations or cultivate empowering employment opportunities. We invite you to use business as a force for good.

Join our upcoming webinar, Increasing Your Impact & Improving Your Score on the B Impact Assessment, to learn more about how business can measure and improve their impact.

Words Matter: How Should We Talk About Impact Investing?

For a number of years, the Case Foundation has been an active champion of the Impact Investing movement. In this work, which encourages institutions and individuals to align their capital more closely with their values, we have hosted more than 300 dialogues to better understand interests and concerns of audience segments as we seek to accelerate the movement. Yesterday, I had the privilege of joining more than 600 people on a webinar to discuss important new findings.

Thanks to a group of partners that included the Omidyar Network, Ford Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, together with the Global Impact Investing Network and the Global Social Impact Investing Steering Group, we unveiled important new research that tracked and analyzed coverage of the topic of impact investing in traditional and social media over a 12-month period. This report provides a clear picture of common messaging either being received or shared through the coverage that appeared in these months. This data, taken together, provides a unique roadmap to guide those of us championing the movement to key audiences and working hard to build out the impact investing ecosystem. As with any movement, words matter and can play a powerful role in informing, educating and activating those on the sidelines.

The good news is that impact investing has enjoyed mostly positive coverage and engagement in both traditional and social media. But equally good news is that it has been balanced by some skepticism or negative coverage that helps identify for us the work we have to do in the days ahead. An important insight provided by the research is that we must be careful to adapt our language and emphasis depending on who we are trying to reach. For instance, there was a clear difference in how impact investing is talked about in the U.K. as a “powerful government tool” versus in the U.S., where coverage and sharing is dominated by such phrases as “taking off,” “reaping returns” and “Millennials demand it.”

Another clear takeaway from the research is that we have work to do in the realm of measuring impact —reported to be the most common negatively associated narrative; on this point, I think there is broad agreement in the field. We must continue to commit ourselves to measuring the “impact” in impact investing. While this may take some time, there have been exciting developments to help close the gap in this area. For instance, the Case Foundation has partnered with B Lab to bring new tools to companies everywhere who want to measure their social impacts—”Measure What Matters” impact assessment tool has engaged more than 40,000 companies to date—an important step forward.

The research also shines a light on how different audiences, investors, policymakers, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and high net worth individuals are engaging with each narrative, as it relates to a particular issue area. For example, two important audience segments— philanthropists and entrepreneurs—are more closely associated with the more negative “not a silver bullet” references. Indeed, within the field we recognize that it is decidedly unhelpful to paint impact investing as a silver bullet, but rather it becomes a new arrow in our quiver as we seek to champion all means in our efforts toward social impact. For those of us that speak about the movement routinely, we can use this research to remind us of the importance of making this point.

With all movements there are stages. While I believe that the impact investing movement is experiencing great traction and momentum, we are still in early days. This important research confirms we’re making strides in communicating effectively to broaden the tent and invite more participants from the private, public and nonprofit sectors to catalyze transformative social change. At the same time, it helps to guide us in our words and actions to fill gaps and address concerns.

If you didn’t have the chance to join us, the full webinar can be accessed, here. I’d like to extend my gratitude to the partners who invested in this important work and invite you to share your thoughts and insights on Twitter using hashtag #impinv.

Still Have Questions About Impact Investing?

We’ve got Answers. Here’s a recap from the recent webinar: Everything you need to know about impact investing (in 1 Hr!)For those of you who missed it you can WATCH the webinar, which featured our own Jean Case and Kate Ahern of the Case Foundation; Melanie Audette of Mission Investors Exchange; Dan Brillman of Unite Us; and Stacy Donohue of Omidiyar Network.

Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation opened the discussion with a description of why impact investing and social enterprise are opening the door to important new opportunities for philanthropists to experiment and start making real impact. She shared pivotal trends and exciting recent developments in the field, like Happy Family’s big success for investors, which earned up to 30 times their return when Danone purchased the company. Finally, she provided insights into how foundation leadership can start to move from idea to action on impact investing.

Next, Kate Ahern, VP of Social Innovation at the Foundation gave an overview of the ins and outs of impact investing. She explained the range of options available for investors looking to bring their social goals to their financial strategy and vice versa. She also identified some of the unique opportunities for organizations like foundations to engage in the field, for example through Social Impact Bonds and backing supportive policies.

Stacy Donahue, Investment Partner at Omidyar Network and Dan Brillman, Founder and CEO of Unite US shared the perspectives of a social investor and a social entrepreneur. Omidyar Network has, through its LLC, provided Unite US with a Series A equity investment. Together they provided a rare look into the practical interactions between a company and its philanthropic, for-profit investor. Both Donahue and Brillman shared great insights into the values of reaching beyond your bubble for highly impactful collaborations.

At the Case Foundation we believe in the power of philanthropy, nonprofits and government to drive social change, that’s why we’re so excited about the growing momentum in impact investing. Over the course of the last two years we have witnessed a number of game changing moments, which we featured in our recent blog post, A Hot Summer for Impact Investing. From Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s recent acquisition of Imprint Capital, to impact investing champions like Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation taking leadership of the U.S. National Advisory Board on Impact Investing—each of these efforts have been rooted in building a strong ecosystem for the sector.

As part of this commitment to the ecosystem, we have spent countless hours educating and activating greater numbers of impact investors and educating others on this powerful tool for social change. Last year we released A Short Guide to Impact Investing, a quick and easy to read resource for anyone interested in impact investing. This year we’ve embarked on a number of educational events—from our journalists training hosted in conjunction with the ImpactHub and Arabella Advisors, to our webinar, this week, in partnership with Council on Foundations and Mission Investors Exchange.

We hope you will continue the conversation with us as we continue to explore more opportunities to drive social change through social entrepreneurship and impact investing—join us on Twitter using #ImpInv.

Questions about Impact Investing? Join our Webinar to get the Answers!

Chances are you’ve had a conversation, read an article or seen some news recently on impact investing and social enterprise. These hot topics are important subjects of conversation in the social sector—and issue areas you need to know about.

As the buzz grows more questions continue to surface what is impact investing really; how does it work; what are my options? And most importantly is it right for me and my organization?

On September 15th from 2:00 to 3:00 pm ET, the Case Foundation, in partnership with the Council on Foundations and Mission Investors Exchange, will host a webinar to cover everything you need to know about impact investing, in just one hour. Register today to reserve your spot.

During this free webinar, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation will join Melanie Audette, Acting Managing Director at Mission Investors Exchange and other industry leading impact investors and civic-tech social entrepreneurs. Together, they will explain the full range of options available to empower foundations interested in deploying their philanthropic resources toward social good through impact investing.

Register today for free!

 In preparation for the webinar, download your free copy of A Short Guide to Impact Investing.