Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) have been on the radar of most organisations for a while now, in fact we wrote some posts earlier in the year around ESG goal setting for your business like (this one ESG: Effective Corporate Social Responsibility Goals).
In many of my recent conversations however, I’ve seen that - while Environmental and Governance targets are given high priority - Social Performance receives less focus for a number of reasons.
Environmental concerns have, quite rightly, become a real priority - a way for organisations to focus on energy efficiency, improve water management and recycling - to improve their green credentials and show how forward-thinking they are.
Governance targets are promoted because they help organisations improve security, uphold ethical standards, bolster their supply chain and reassure stakeholders and shareholders - again, the value of this work has been widely recognised.
Why then, has Social Responsibility been given less of a priority? Or perhaps, why should your organisation be considering Social Performance at all?
What Does Social Performance Look Like?
Despite being identified as important within the ESG framework, many leaders within organisations struggle to see how social performance relates to their role. But Social Responsibility is a broad area which covers a number of concerns and when looked at in this light, it’s easier to see how its impact can be seen across an organisation.
At its most basic, social performance relates to people - inside and outside your organisation. You can see then, how improving employee engagement, training opportunities, inclusivity and diversity, will all impact on your business’ social performance.
Supporting the needs of your customers and community is also important, whether that’s by improving accessibility or opportunities for those in your sphere.
Examples of social performance include:
Employee Recruitment, Training and Performance
Employee Diversity and Inclusion
Business Ethics (handling malpractice, fraud, and whistleblowing)
Supply Chain Management - supporting good practice
So, why does your organisation need to prioritise social performance and what might this look like?
1. High Impact
It seems that many employees, leaders included, don’t have a clear understanding of the business and societal impact of social performance or how it correlates with their job function. Supporting social performance, however, has been seen to benefit organisations through enhanced reputation and stronger employee engagement.
Across all levels of your business, work to support social performance makes a difference to what people think about you - and will therefore impact results.
Whether your focus is on improving accessibility, employee performance or security, you’re making a difference to social performance, which - in its turn - will achieve higher performance and improved sales.
2. Broad Scope
Social performance is frequently misunderstood to be focused just on philanthropy or environmental efforts. It covers a much broader scope however, including ensuring ethical practices, diversity and inclusion, employee welfare, and community involvement.
Making sure your teams understand this wider viewpoint will help individuals see how everyday tasks contribute to these objectives. Maybe you’re enhancing training opportunities or making digital or physical spaces more accessible - you’re supporting social performance.
3. Company Culture
The ideal is for an organisation to have social performance deeply embedded in the core business strategy or culture. When employees see clearly how business values intersect with ESG goals it becomes second nature to support these practices.
Your people will buy into a culture which resonates with - and supports - them, you want individuals to feel that these values are part of their roles, and the work they are doing directly supports them.
This can be seen across all areas of the business.
4. Providing Leadership
While it’s important for company culture to embrace certain values, if these aren’t also championed by leadership the focus will be lost. The failure of organisational leaders to underscore the significance of social performance and its relevance to individual roles can lead to a disconnect.
Leadership is key in weaving social performance into the fabric of day-to-day operations, helping your teams see how they play a part in this important area will provide a real boost.
4. Individual Focus
Having leadership championing the opportunities for social performance, it’s also important that individual team members see how they can be part of making a difference. These strategies often fail when there are limited channels for employees to engage in ESG activities, reinforcing the belief that it falls outside their responsibilities.
Individuals in roles not traditionally linked with social or environmental issues often feel they lack the necessary skills or influence to contribute effectively, however good communication about what is possible will help your people engage.
A focus on Social Performance can bring real benefits to your business and, in order to engage the whole organisation, it’s important that leaders understand their role.
About the Author
I'm Terry Chana. I am an innovation strategist that connects customer, employee and brand experiences. My passion lies in building ecosystems to solve business problems by combining creativity and technology.