5 steps to measure and manage company impact

Gain a better understanding of your company's impact to drive meaningful societal change, improve decision-making, and build long-term resilience.
By B Lab Global
March 28, 2023

Every business has the opportunity to understand and manage their impact using B Lab’s tools, regardless of their size, or the sector in which they operate. Having a clearer understanding of company data and impact performance allows for more effective decision-making and provides opportunities for businesses to make choices that drive meaningful societal change. So what is impact? And how can an organization manage its positive and negative impacts to benefit all people and the planet?

What is ‘impact’?

According to The Impact Management Platform, a collaboration between leading providers of public good standards, impact is defined as ‘A change in an aspect of people’s well-being or the condition of the natural environment caused by an organization’.

It is impossible for a business to operate without impacting society in one way or another. In this sense, impacts can be considered as either positive or negative. For example, a negative impact might be a company's use of unsustainable palm oil for use in food production, exploiting the land and its inhabitants. On the other hand, a positive impact could be a company practicing regenerative agriculture, a more rehabilitative approach to food and farming systems that deliver positive outcomes such as increasing farm biodiversity and restoring the land.

Subsequently, impact management relates to how a company approaches these positive and negative impacts. Whilst traditionally impact management was bound to single initiatives, relating to plans and protocols that measured, managed and monitored potential risks within the scope of a specific project, in recent years the term has developed to become all-encompassing; social impact management considers a company’s entire operation, across its value chain - from employee engagement to manufacture and distribution of products. 

Why is it important for businesses to measure and manage impact? 

One thing is clear; for businesses to have a social license to operate and to create shared value for all stakeholders, a company’s social impact must be effectively measured and managed. This is becoming increasingly expected from consumers and employees alike. 

Consumers are increasingly recognizing their buying power, some even boycotting brands in an attempt to influence change regarding a company's practices by jeopardizing its financial bottom line. Further, PwC’s recent Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 consulted 52,000 workers across 44 countries and details how workers want more support in translating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations into their work.

How can my company start to measure and manage it's impact?

For companies to remain relevant in today’s world, they must continuously improve their impact performance. Measurement, or evaluation of existing practices, allows businesses to have a clear grasp of their starting point and establish a current baseline of impact, before identifying and implementing practices to drive positive change. This may feel like a daunting challenge, but here’s 5 steps to help you get started:

1. Learn about B Lab’s impact management tools & programs. 

B Lab has tools and programs to help every business, of every size, measure and manage their impact. Browse our offering or read below to understand which tool or program can best help your business start measuring and managing your impact:

The B Impact Assessment: The B Impact Assessment tool [BIA] is a digital self-assessment tool used by more than 150,000 businesses. Companies can answer a series of questions about their company's practices and outputs, currently across five categories: governance, workers, community, the environment, and customers. The BIA also allows you to evaluate your company performance compared to the thousands of other businesses that have taken the assessment. You'll see where your business is outperforming others, and where there's room for improvement.

If your company is already reaching high standards of social and environmental performance, then this is also your company’s first step to becoming B Corp Certified!  

The SDG Action Manager: B Lab collaborated with the UN Global Compact to develop the SDG Action Manager, a unique impact management solution that can help every business set goals, track progress, and stay motivated on specific actions to support the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Use the tool to learn which SDGs are most relevant to your business and understand your existing contribution by answering the assessment questions to analyze your company operations, policies, and business models in terms of potential positive impact and risks.

B Movement Builders: If you are a multinational corporation with an ambition to be part of the B Corp Movement, gathering operational data could be a huge undertaking. However, the B Movement Builders program creates a pathway for multinational companies to start their journey towards a real impact transformation. It facilitates the adoption of standards for MNCs to manage their impacts, facilitating multinational companies to move towards becoming certified B Corps, if they wish to do so.

2. Identify key points of contact within your organization.

Once you have a grasp of the content in B Lab’s assessment tools and programs, discuss with your colleagues and determine key contacts for measuring your impact. Work with senior leadership to understand any existing sustainability goals or high-level weaknesses and risks. Is your company keen to align its goals to the Sustainable Development Goals? Or does it have an ambition to become B Corp Certified? Use this information to determine which of B Lab’s tools and programs is best to help your business on its impact journey. 

3. Sign up, and find your starting point.

Once you have established a key working group for data gathering and answering assessment questions, you can register your company for one of our tools, or register interest in our B Movement Builders program, making sure to sign up the most appropriate colleagues as key points of contact. 

4. Establish your baseline.

Start inputting the data you are currently monitoring as an organization into the B Impact Assessment or the SDG Action Manager by answering the assessment questions. You will begin to get a deeper understanding of risk areas for improvement, or areas where you are already having a positive impact.

5. Use benchmarking and goals-setting features to improve your performance.

How does your company perform against industry averages, businesses of a similar size, or even regionally? Use our benchmarking features to learn how your company compares and set time-bound goals to improve your performance in risk areas.

Remember, driving true impact takes time and effort from a whole array of people; to prioritize long-term sustainability over short-term gains requires commitment. However, businesses that are leading the movement for economic systems change reap remarkable benefits. B Corps build trust with consumers, communities, and suppliers; attract and retain employees; and draw mission-aligned investors. And, as B Corps are required to undergo the verification process every three years in order to recertify, they are by definition also focused on continuous improvement, leading to long-term resilience. 

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