With so many social challenges in the world today, how can everyone inflict positive change? This is the question ‘social impact’ aims to answer. Those new to the term may find the concept shrouded with complexity. Who can inflict social impact, and what counts as one? This article highlights a few brilliant social impact examples from the national government all the way down to the consumer level.
Table of Contents
What is social impact?
Before moving on to social impact examples, we must first understand the fundamentals of social impact.
The term ‘social impact’ can be hard to define. In 1981, American social psychologist Bibb Latane created the social impact theory. In this theory, social impact is defined as:
“any of the great variety of changes in physiological states and subjective feelings, motives and emotions, cognitions and beliefs, values and behavior, that occur in an individual, human, or animal, as a result of the real, implied or imagined presence or actions of other individuals.”
This theory defines social impact as ‘social force fields’ that push us to behave or think a particular way.
On the other hand, when ‘social impact’ is used in the realm of public bodies and public sector organizations, it takes on a different but related meaning: the positive contribution that organizations and bodies can make to communities in which they operate.
In this context, social impact is about doing good and making positive contributions with goals of addressing a pressing social challenge. This article will provide social impact examples using this definition, and how different organizations, companies, establishments, and individuals have acted to inflict positive social change.
Companies are a fantastic source of social impact examples, and they’re also a great way to understand how social impact can be both an external and internal initiative.
When companies generate positive social impact, they often do so through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). CSR is a self-regulating business model that assists companies in being socially accountable to the public, to themselves, and to their stakeholders.
It is important for companies, especially social enterprises, to measure their social impact to help them better understand and target their social work, attract investors, and retain investor confidence.
Examples of social impact indicators include inputs (what is invested in the project), outputs (what is done or offered in the project, and the people reached), outcomes (what the project aims to achieve), and impact (results at the societal level).
Here are some social impact project examples from some of the most popular social impact companies.
Well-known for its environmentally-friendly initiatives, Google has earned the RI’s highest CSR score, and mainly because they use 50% less energy than others in the world. Google has also invested over $1 billion in renewable energy projects, which enables other businesses to reduce environmental impact through a variety of services, including Gmail.
Using the term ‘corporate citizenship’ to define their CSR initiatives, Pfizer focuses on raising awareness for non-infectious diseases, as well as providing healthcare for children and women who have no access to them. A great example of this how the company reduced the prices of Pevenar 13 vaccines for ear infections, blood infections, and pneumonia for those in need.
One of the best social impact initiative examples in an internal setting is from Netflix. The online video streaming company offers over 52 weeks of paid parental leave to their employees, which may be availed at any time for the first year of their child’s life. For reference, most tech companies offer only 18 weeks.
4. Well’s Fargo
One of the best social impact examples related to philanthropy is from Wells Fargo. The American multinational financial services company donates over 1.5% of its revenue to charity every year, and they have since raised over $286.5 million in 2017 alone. The proceeds were donated to over 14,500 schools and nonprofits, which helped support community resiliency, revitalization, and economic growth.
See Related: What is Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)?
Universities and colleges
A variety of academic institutions in different countries have recognized their role in creating political, social, and economic value, as well as their capability to become society’s ‘embedded brain’.
Academic institutions have vast research capabilities, resources, and connections that promote, foster, and lead global social innovation.
1. Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Politecnico di Milano’s Department of Design launched the POLIMI-DESIS Lab, which explores how design can enable communities, people, and enterprises to manage and activate innovation processes. The lab focuses on urban, food, mobility, distributed manufacturing, and housing systems.
2. Ashoka U Changemaker Campus
The Ashoka U Changemaker Campus is a network composed of 40 institutions with goals of re-envisioning the role of higher education. After going through a selection process, universities can become part of this group that develops social innovation into an institutional culture.
3. Copenhagen Business School
With Copenhagen Business School’s ‘Business in Society Strategy’, the school upholds a strategy based on the principle that universities hold a core duty as changemakers. This social impact strategy is in line with the school’s aim to engage in problem-focused, context-driven, knowledge production.
4. Universidad de Desarrollo, Chile
In partnership with Miguel Kast Foundation, Universidad de Desarollo has established the Social Innovation Institute, which prepares changemakers and students for the development and support of their social initiatives and ventures.
The institute functions with the help of the national government in order to select and fund the best social entrepreneurship ideas.
See Related: History of Impact Investing: 8 Things to Know
National and local government
The national government has the most leverage in generating social impact, and it’s easy to find an endless list of social impact examples on this level.
1. Spurring social enterprise
Various governments around the world have recognized the potential of Social Enterprises (SEs) to build more inclusive economic and social agendas.
The SE sector as a whole is fast becoming an important contributor to gross domestic product. In South Korea for example, the SE sector accounts for 3% of the GDP.
To spur social entrepreneurship, governments can draft a number of policy tools. Legal forms, like those drafted by the Community Interest Company in the UK, Social Cooperatives and Social EX ledge in Italy, or the Benefit Corporation in the US, help recognize SE, opening the door to formulating policies that support them.
Governments can also give out fiscal incentives such as Tax Relief to benefit those who invest in social enterprises. This is already done in the UK, where those who invest in SEs enjoy a reduction of 30% of the investment in the income tax bill for that year.
Another way the government can help is by offering grants, awareness campaigns, training, and building the capacity of social actors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and innovators.
2. Involvement in Corporate Social Responsibility
In Europe, especially in the UK, the national government has collaborated with private industries to protect and promote social objectives. The government can provide a framework for regulation and monitor compliance to improve CSR standards. This encourages all businesses, both large and small, to improve their CSR performance.
3. Joining international government organizations
The main purpose of international government organizations (IGO) is to provide a mechanism for people in various parts of the world to work more effectively in areas of peace and security, while also being able to deal with social and economic questions. IGOs are great social impact examples, as all of them have major roles in global governance and international political systems.
Among the oldest IGOs include the Universal Postal Union, the United Nations, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Other popular IGOs include the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the European Union, the World Trade Organization, and the African Development Bank.
See Related: 13 Things to Know About Climate Refugees
Communities and non-governmental organizations
If you’re looking for social impact examples, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a good place to start. From defending human rights to promoting environmental sustainability, NGOs are improving lives around the globe.
Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and headed by Dr. Gary Slutkin, Cure Violence was ranked as one of Global Journal’s Top 10 NGOs in the world. The organization is committed to putting an end to violence in communities by using strategies and methods associated with disease control.
This includes treating high-risk individuals, detecting and disrupting conflicts, and changing social norms. It operates in Latin America, the US, North Africa, and the Middle East, and has seen community violence decreased by up to 70% with its strategies.
A great example of a social impact organization is the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI). Working at both global and national levels, CHAI aims to support people with HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
It does so by increasing access to lifesaving technologies, decreasing medical treatment costs, and assisting governments in building the frameworks needed for top-notch care and treatment programs. CHAI operates in 33 countries and has over 1,500 employees.
With a core mission of educating people to protect the environment, as well as the people, communities, and businesses that depend on it, the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) has over 73 participating countries.
Through its Education for Sustainable Development and Environment Education programs, FEE assists communities to understand the benefits of sustainable living through active learning and education.
With a goal of helping people triumph over adversity in the face of disaster and hardship, Mercy Corps believes that communities are the best agents for their own change and that leveraging local markets leads to sustainable recovery.
The organization focuses on disaster preparedness, emergency responses, conflict management, sustainable agriculture, equity for women and children, and education. Mercy Corps, which was founded in 1979, now has 40 member countries.
To build a healthy global economy, Ceres promotes sustainable business solutions and practices by mobilizing business and investor leadership. The organization has 10 key principles, which include energy conservation, sustainable use of natural resources, protection of the biosphere, environmental restoration, and risk reduction.
Ceres holds an annual two-day conference in Boston where participants are taught how various business sectors can effectively adapt to the sustainability challenges of the 21st century.
See Related: 7 ESG Investing Trends for 2021
Social impact examples are often derived from organizations, institutions, world leaders, and governmental policy initiatives but the truth is, anyone can make a positive social impact on the world.
Here are a few ways you can make your presence felt and make a positive contribution to the global good.
1. Live sustainably
Sustainability means different things for different people, but at its core, it requires maintaining change in a balanced fashion. You can start by defining how you can practice sustainability in your home.
From saving energy, eating less meat, using reusable alternatives, and going paperless to switching to renewable energy, recycling, growing your own produce, donating unused items, and saving water, there are more than a hundred things you can do to lessen your carbon footprint and make it a better place to live in.
2. Volunteer in your community
Social impact examples like organizations starting a charity or donating millions to the underprivileged are inspirational, but you don’t have to start an organization to make a positive impact on the community you live in.
Research organizations working for social change and volunteer for them. From tutoring children and serving meals to handing out materials or cleaning up a beach – there’s plenty you can do for a charity or NGO near you.
3. Make a social impact investment
If you’re looking to utilize your money for the greater good, you may want to look into impact investments. Impact investments allow you generate financial returns while contributing to social or environmental good. This means that you can align your values with your investments, help meet global challenges, and play an active role in shaping the world’s future.
Investors may put their investments in a social impact fund such as ESG funds or dabble in individual stocks. Social impact investment examples include using investments to address social and environmental issues like hunger and climate change, homelessness, poverty, and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.