Social Impact: Definition and Why is Social Impact Important?

Social impacts have been making waves and changes in many parts of our lives. From the way we evaluate how businesses conduct their operations to the things we choose to purchase, social impacts are becoming more and more important to many people. There is no doubt that how we manage Diversity and inclusion or other topics such as Social Impact Theory will impact social impact as well.

While there is no easy way for businesses and organizations to reduce social costs, there are many ways to achieve social impacts. Many businesses, organizations, and foundations are making conscious efforts towards achieving greater and better social impact.

What is social impact?

In essence, the definition of social impact means any significant or positive changes that solve or at least address social injustice and challenges. Businesses or organizations achieve these goals through conscious and deliberate efforts or activities in their operations and administrations.

Businesses or organizations provide impacts to their consumers and the public all the time, though in different capacities. Social impact, however, concentrates on the direct positive consequences these parties offer to society.

Social impact can derive from many different sectors and industries. The public, private, plural, and fourth sectors all play different roles in providing to society. These sectors choose to operate through specific sets of goals and approaches to create social impact in the most significant way. 

When did social impact awareness start?

Social impact started as a form of philanthropic efforts in helping those in need. Philanthropy is not something new as many people and organizations have always been ready to lend a helping hand since the beginning of time.

However, the concept entered the mainstream in 1972. The ideology was made famous by an American social entrepreneur, Bill Drayton. He has a long and impressive record of founding organizations that gear towards making a social impact.

Bill Drayton is passionate about making social changes in fighting social injustice since his varsity days. He is an ardent believer that everyone is capable of making a change, and therefore, we are all “Changemakers.” He was named one of America’s 25 Best Leaders in 2005 for his efforts.

Types of Social Impacts

A business or organization that wants to make social impacts and is aligning its operations with Social Development Goals can create changes in many ways. It’s not limited to how they treat their employees, but also in any form of interaction and relationship.

There’re four types of social impact businesses can make. Clear impact measures the changes in stakeholders’ performance, such in skill assessment or observation tools. High impact measures the changes in the business systems, such as in its environmental effects and input indicators.

The Wide impact measures the changes in relationship mapping and social impact assessments to make sure the operations can achieve the desired social impacts. The Deep impact is the final impact that measures consumers’ satisfaction through happiness inventories from the efforts the business is making towards creating social impacts.

A sustainable business that wants to create social impact needs to consider all business factors of the companies within its supply chain through these four impacts. They need to make deliberate efforts in dealing and maintaining relationships with other businesses that are also creating social impact.

Business owners who want to make or are making significant social impacts are known as social entrepreneurs. These social entrepreneurs own businesses that directly benefit society through their efforts in addressing one or several components of social challenges.

Social enterprises can create social impacts in any way they can through the 17 Social Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations. These SDGs are set as a way for individuals, businesses, and organizations to work together towards making a significant impact in the world.

  • GOAL 1: No Poverty
  • GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
  • GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
  • GOAL 4: Quality Education
  • GOAL 5: Gender Equality
  • GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
  • GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
  • GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
  • GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
  • GOAL 13: Climate Action
  • GOAL 14: Life Below Water
  • GOAL 15: Life on Land
  • GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
  • GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal

Other than social enterprises, social innovation is also another type of social impact that’s quickly gaining traction. We’re seeing many impressive and almost out of this world social innovations from people around the world.

Social innovation is a new social practice where innovators aim to meet social needs in better ways than existing solutions. These innovations are often highly ingenious in helping to solve social injustice and at the same time, achieve many of the 17 SDGs.

A business or organization can create many different types of social impact. Even though it may take some time to consciously shift the paradigm and processes, many companies are now making changes in their operations to achieve better and greater social impact.

Why is Social Impact important?

Making a difference in the world is always important. No matter how small the effort is, social impact impacts everyone in many ways we may not realize. It’s not just about providing equality at the workplace or creating sustainable products to reduce waste.

When one component of society thrives, many other aspects of their lives will flourish. This can lead to bigger and better changes. The 17 Social Development Goals are helping different components of society in different ways and different capacities.

And social impact doesn’t just help people. When businesses and organizations consciously choose sustainable ways to operate, other lifeforms on Earth can also have the chance to thrive. Many businesses in the past have caused significant damage to the environment. With social impact in mind, companies can now choose greener ways to operate and create less by-products.

Social impact creates opportunities that are otherwise unavailable to the minorities or underprivileged. These groups can get access to quality education, clean water, gender equality, or able to obtain decent work and thus gain economic growth, etc.

Read the full article here.

By Nicole Mitchell (she/her)
Nicole Mitchell (she/her) Associate Director, Career Readiness