April 25, 2019

Measuring business impact

These days, you’re hard-pressed to find a company that hasn’t dipped a toe into the waters of cause marketing. More brands are realizing that investing in positive change isn’t just good for the world – it’s good for business. But brand activism will need to be more than socially-aware tote bags and flashy PR stunts to appeal to the next generation of consumers. Millennials and Gen Zers will choose to support companies that have demonstrated their benefit to society. And to prove impact we first have to find a way to measure it. Here are some considerations to keep in mind when measuring business impact.

Measuring the environmental and social impact of a branded initiative is a much-debated subject. Each campaign and initiative has its own goal and plan for execution, and the way its impact is measured should be unique too, based on the campaign objectives.

We’ve provided a framework to consider when building your company’s measurement plan:

1. Set the framework: Consider what impact you are striving to achieve through your campaign when measuring business impact. Look beyond outputs to outcomes. Are you hoping to positively impact society, the environment, the governance of the company or working conditions?

2. Set the benchmark: Conduct an initial assessment of the organization’s current impact. The impact of a campaign is much more powerful when the outcomes of the campaign have a starting point to benchmark against.

3. 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.


4. 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?

5. 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.