We at Yulu are the heart and minds behind Impact Relations, a new standard for authentic communications. Our “Guide to Impact Relations” blog series will explore what Impact Relations means today and how it has evolved over time, along with providing a framework for consulting, measuring, and communicating the impact of our communications strategies.
How to measure the environmental and social impact of a communications campaign is a much-debated subject. Each campaign has its own goal and plan for execution, and the way its impact is measured should be unique too, based on the campaign objectives.
Here’s the Impact Relations framework to consider when building your measurement plan:
- Set the framework: Consider what impact you are striving to achieve through your campaign. Look beyond outputs to outcomes. Are you hoping to positively impact society, the environment, the governance of the company or working conditions?
- Set the benchmark: Conduct an initial assessment of the organization’s current impact. This is called the ‘Impact Assessment’. The impact of a campaign is much more powerful when the outcomes of the campaign have a starting point to benchmark against.
- Set targets: The next step is to set targets and proxies. Ask yourself the following questions:
- For socially or governance-focused campaigns: how many people do you hope to have their well-being improved, and how?
- For environmentally-focused campaigns: what positive impact do you hope to make to the environment?
- Can you measure this change, quantitatively or qualitatively?
- Set a short-term proxy: where are we today and where would we like to be in one, three, and five years from now? This is easier to track than the long-term social impact of an initiative, and it’s better to start somewhere, so begin with one year.
- Track progress: Measure the impact each quarter. If you’re hitting your targets with ease, do you need to set a stretch goal? Or if not, do you need to adjust the tactics to ensure you get there?
Articulate your Impact as Inputs versus Outputs: When setting metrics, it’s better to talk about the outcomes of initiatives, rather than the effort put in. For example:
- If the campaign is addressing the issue of hunger, it’s more impactful to talk about helping 250,000 households become food secure, rather than simply promoting the $25,000 grant given to a food bank.
- If the campaign is supporting education, it’s better to talk about the 100 students that increased their grades by a level in STEM subjects, rather than focusing on the 2,000 hours employees spent mentoring students.
There are many tools for measuring impact. Here’s a few that stand out to us:
- B Corp offers a free tool called the ‘B Corp Impact Assessment’ that measures an organization’s impact in terms of governance, community, society and the environment. This provides businesses with a 360-degree view of an organization’s practices in these areas.
- The United Nations offers a Global Compact Self Assessment Tool for companies committed to upholding social and environmental standards in their operations. The tool enables users to evaluate the extent to which issues covered by the UN Global Compact principles are anchored in the company strategy. The tool is in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
- PriceWaterHouseCoopers has developed a Total Impact Measurement and Management tool to help businesses quantify their positive or negative impact on society, the environment and the economy.
- The GreenHouse Gas Protocol provides the accounting framework for nearly every GHG standard and program in the world – from international organizations, to individual businesses. There are also a number of carbon calculators available online for individuals to measure their carbon footprint.
- The Sustainability Consortium has a measurement and reporting system for buyers and suppliers looking to create more sustainable supply chains. Walmart was behind the creation of this global non-profit, and Walmart has been a world leader in improving its supply chain. Walmart set a goal to eliminate 20 million metric tons of GHGs from its supply chain, and exceeded its goal, eliminating more than 28 million metric tons.
Some organizations create impact measurement programs specifically for their organization, rather than rely on existing tools. Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan (SLP) is a good example. Unilever’s SLP has three goals; to improve health and well-being, reduce its environmental impact and enhance livelihoods. Nine commitments have been made for each goal, with a clear methodology for measuring the success of each.