Voices from the Field of Social Impact: What does it mean to achieve the ‘S’ in ESG?

What does it mean to achieve the ‘S’ in ESG?

Blog by Link UP's Corporate Partnerships Manager, Nicolle Brooks | Jul 2024

On 1 May 2024, Link UP London hosted a cross-sectional breakfast discussion at White City Place in London on what it means to deliver real social impact in today’s ESG world.

In this blog, Link UP’s Corporate Partnerships Manager Nicolle Brooks summarises her key takeaways on tactics and approaches on achieving the ‘S’ in ESG, from the perspectives of the diverse panel of stakeholders that joined Link UP as part of this live panel discussion.

Voices from the Field of Social Impact: What does it mean to achieve the ‘S’ in ESG?

When it comes to social impact, there are no hard and fast rules. At Link UP London, working in the world of skills-based volunteering, social impact is a complex concept that we think about on a daily basis. Here at Link UP, as an intermediary between charities, companies, and employee volunteers, we are privileged to be at the crossroads of many conversations on what social impact means and importantly, how companies can take small steps to start to deliver it as part of their set of commitments and objectives around ESG.

Why focus on the ‘S’? Well, to put it plainly, for many companies today it seems to be the hardest part of the ESG equation to crack. Many of our conversations with prospective corporate partners have shown that while companies may have some innate sense of how to tackle environmental and governance commitments, it’s the social impact piece that presents a real quandary. How can companies understand, define, achieve, track and speak with confidence around delivering social impact in an ESG world?

It was exactly these topical questions that recently brought us together in partnership with the team at White City Place for a cross-sector discussion on all things social impact. And as the diverse perspectives of our panelists demonstrate, partnership and collaboration across the corporate and charity sectors is an essential element of moving toward achieving real social impact with confidence.

What were the key takeaways from each panelist on unlocking the social impact piece of ESG? Read on for a three-point summary of each speaker’s key insights.

The ESG specialist perspective: Alice Jardine, Stanhope

  • To unlock social impact, companies must clarify their own understanding of what social value is. It can mean many things – from making financial grants to short-term volunteering to longer-term partnerships – and there are therefore many ways to achieve it.
  • Take a hard look at what your company and your people are best placed to provide to the community, and start from there
  • Companies must be bold and not be afraid to try new ideas!

The Employee/Volunteer perspective: Roberta Melcore, skilled volunteer

  • A great place for companies to start is with a focus on skills – it’s really refreshing and rewarding for employees to volunteer using their actual core professional skills
  • Companies shouldn’t be afraid to listen to their people when it comes to trialing new social impact opportunities, such as skills-based employee volunteering which Roberta championed at Amazon and is becoming increasingly popular
  • Start small and experiment with a pilot programme

The Community perspective: Gareth Dixon, Young Hammersmith & Fulham Foundation

  • Think local – there’s a huge amount London companies can contribute in their own backyards
  • Companies must take the time to really understand the community needs around them before diving in. Most of what companies can uniquely offer lies in their professional skills and expertise
  • Consider smaller organisations for corporate support, not just large headline organisations

The Charity perspective: Carlos Salvador, Football Journeys

  • Times are very tough for charities at the moment. Companies can – and should – be an important part of the solution
  • Companies need to ‘meet charities where they are’ and understand how they can support with the most pressing needs of the moment
  • Business as usual for a business may not be business as usual for a small charity – businesses must never stop working to understand the differences in how charities operate day to day

The Link UP perspective: Kim Perlow, Link UP London

  • There has been huge progress toward getting companies involved in delivering social impact in recent years, but still work to do to really engage employees in delivering meaningful activities at scale
  • There is evidence that skills-based volunteering provides employees with a deeper level of engagement, sense of purpose, and awareness of the impact they are part of
  • Link UP London’s track record has shown that skills-based volunteering can be an essential part of unlocking the ‘S’ in ESG

Taken together, we believe these industry and community perspectives underline the necessity for deeper corporate/community dialogue, and a willingness to experiment and trial new forms of community engagement and employee volunteering, beyond what has been traditionally on offer.

Above all else, the event highlighted the need to be bold in delivering social impact in an ESG world. There’s never been a more important moment for companies to understand their needs and listen to those of the communities around them to identify new and innovative ways to deliver impact.

At Link UP, we look forward to watching more London corporates embrace new models and seek out new opportunities, seeing more employees champion high-impact ways to get involved in the community, and witnessing more charities coming forward to benefit from the unique skills-based contributions that might come from the corporate sector. When it comes to social impact, moving forward together is by far the best way to create a meaningful difference for companies, employees and communities.


ESG Corporate White City Event


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