What Is Social Impact? 5 Ways You Can Act For A Better World Today
The social impact revolution is here and now more than ever individuals and businesses are starting to take a different look at how their impact (or influence) makes a difference on the social good of our environment and global citizens everywhere.
What once used to be a revolution that seemed exclusive to the feminists and “hippies” of the world, has now become much more mainstream, and it is about time. Climate change affects every single person on this planet, which means that the social impact revolution needs to be one that includes every person.
One of the major flaws of the environmental and social movements of the past have been that they feel exclusive to a certain subset of people that fit a particular mold or stereotype. For example, when you think of an environmentalist what do you think of?
The “hippie” stereotype from the 70s still exists today, and has made environmental progress and social reform something that still doesn’t feel relatable. This lack of relatability is what made the movements of the past fail to create wide sweeping change that was capable of gaining the attention and interest of the masses, and we need to do better today.
Social impact is something that every single person can relate to. No matter what your lifestyle, clothing choices, job, economic status, or hobbies may be. Social impact is about making choices that support the greater good, and to make the biggest social impact we need all 7.7+ billion people to feel empowered in their ability to make a difference.
But what is social impact anyway?
This article is sponsored by Arbor Teas, a sustainably conscious tea company that sources some of the worlds best organic and fair trade tea, while maintaining the highest environmental and ethical business standards. Arbor Teas is a company I have so much love and respect for, and as always I thank you for supporting the companies that help to make this educational platform possible.
What Is Social Impact?
Social impact can be looked at through the lens of business, non-profit, and personal impact. Whether you are an individual person or a business/non-profit, social impact refers to the positive impact and effect your work or actions have on your local community, and the greater environment.
While there isn’t one specific definition that outlines what is social impact and what isn’t, generally speaking social impact is how people and corporations make choices that may not always be the easiest, but ensure that positive change comes from the way they choose to operate and act.
When it comes to business and non-profits, social impact often is woven into the very mission and values of an organization and drives everything from marketing to program development and operations.
Why Is Social Impact Important?
While social impact in the past has been mostly confined to the non-profit sector, more and more for-profit companies, otherwise known as social enterprises, are now choosing to develop and invest in social impact driven business models that support economic, social, and environmentally conscious practices.
Corporate Social Responsibility has also taken on a new role in recent years, as traditional for-profit corporations are becoming more aware of the increasing demand from consumers for more transparency and social responsibility. In fact, research has shown that 87% of consumers will purchase from a company based on social issues that they care about and a company advocated for. Additionally, 78% of consumers want companies to address social justice issues, and 76% will refuse to purchase products and services from companies that support issues that are in contrast to their consumers beliefs.
Additionally, as climate change continues to dramatically impact and change our ecosystems, innovation both in business and the non-profit sector will be required to ensure the global health of people everywhere. While social impact in the past may have been viewed as idealist and charitable, with the state of climate change today social impact business models are now a necessity for both economic and environmental sustainability — and companies are catching on.
Today there are more than 1700 B-Corporation Certified Companies in over 50 countries, and even some of the largest consulting firms are acknowledging that the traditional way of judging the success of business based purely in financial outcomes is no longer viable or appropriate.
How Your Purchasing Habits Can Support climate CHange Solutions
Most people, regardless of income status can help support various climate change solutions through their purchasing habits. However, what often gets lost in the conversation around individual purchasing power as an impact solution for our climate crisis is that your purchases do not need to necessarily be more expensive or exclusive than the mainstream alternative.
It is this exclusivity in the “conscious consumer” conversation that in-actuality is incredibly unhelpful and a product of sustainability becoming a marketing strategy that many companies use without understanding it’s origin.
For “conscious consumerism”, and sustainable living as a lifestyle to make a large enough impact capable of combating our climate crisis, we need as many people as possible to feel empowered in its fundamentals if any long-term and sustainable change will truly be possible. That means eliminating exclusive, elitist messaging that makes most people feel as though they are incapable of taking an active part in creating a truly sustainable future.
So when referring to purchasing habits being able to support climate change solutions, we absolutely must be calling in any person who cares about our planet, our future, and global citizens everywhere.
Caring is not exclusive to any one income bracket and it’s time we re-framed our conversations about purchasing power and impact. Because often choosing not to purchase or purchase less can be just as powerful as the mainstream alternative, which has over the past few decades swayed to a dangerous level of over consumption.
5 Ways You Can Make A Social Impact Today
It is positive to see the ways in which many companies are choosing to focus on their social impact, but much of that change is driven through the actions of everyday individuals who demand something different.
While the weight and responsibility of climate change and global health equity should not sit on the shoulders of individuals, in order for the most powerful companies, governments, and policies to truly change and act, individuals need to collectively demand that change with our voices and daily actions.
Fight Deforestation In The Amazon Rainforest and Globally
Our rainforests have been under attack for years, and currently the Amazon Rainforest in-particular due to government policy, and corrupt corporate interest has made it so that the Amazon Rainforest is now being burned at record rates never seen before.
While deforestation as a whole is a complex issue with many factors impacting it, one factor is absolutely the public demands for certain products like beef, sugar, palm oil, coffee, tea, and paper which incentivize companies to continue to prioritize consumer demand and profit over the conservation and protection of our rainforests.
But even if you live thousands of miles from the nearest rainforest there are things that you can do to help reduce consumer demand and support for products that encourage the destruction of rainforest land.
One way is to support companies that are working to fight deforestation and support communities who have been impacted by deforestation. Arbor Teas for example works with farmers in Northern Vietnam who have been impacted by deforestation and are working to preserve Vietnam's Northern Rainforests by proving to the Vietnamese government that the international demand for tea sourced from ancient trees is both economically beneficial for Vietnam, and worth preserving the native rainforest landscapes for.
Additionally, there are organizations like the Rainforest Alliance, which have created a certified label that certifies companies that meet a specific criteria of social and environmental standards. The Rainforest Alliance label looks like a small green frog, and is one way that consumers can feel more confident in knowing that a company had been reviewed for its potential impact on the rainforest, and other environments globally.
Improve Your Carbon Footprint
While many of us may think that our carbon footprint is only based on the amount we drive, or how much electricity we use in our homes, in actuality our total carbon footprint is much greater than that and involves the carbon footprints of those companies we choose to support.
Choosing to support companies who are utilizing innovative methods of doing business that reduce their overall waste through waste-free packaging, carbon neutral transportation off sets, and renewable energy, helps you the consumer also reduce your personal carbon footprint by default!
Want to see what your current carbon footprint looks like and how you could improve it? Click here for a carbon footprint ecological calculator and see what kind of carbon impact you currently leave on our planet!
Support Regenerative Agriculture Practices
Your local farmers are in many ways the backbone of your local environment and food system. They are literally the stewards of the land, and unfortunately most farmers are barely able to make ends meet.
With topsoil erosion occurring at incredible rates due to poor soil management and climate change, our global food system is in trouble, and farmers who are choosing to farm organically and with traditional/ regenerative practices are in many ways ensuring the future of our food system and ultimately our food security. So go out of your way to support them.
Join a CSA, visit the farmers market, and thank them for everything they do to ensure that you have nutrient dense food to feed yourself and your family with.
There are also many companies who are choosing to bring the need for regenerative farming to the forefront of our agricultural and environmental conversations if we are going to aggressively work towards improving and reversing our current climate crisis.
Because regenerative agriculture uses traditional practices that encourage animals, plants, humans, and the surrounding environment to work in sync with one another, regenerative agriculture is one of our best options for not only improving the health of our soil, food, and planet, but also sequestering carbon back into the soil.
While regeneratively farmed products may be more expensive than there conventional counterparts, if you have the capacity to prioritize purchasing them, it may be one of the best things you do for your health, our future food security, and the vitality of our planet.
Improve Your Local Economy In Your Own Community
Choosing to use your purchasing power within your own local community by shopping at local businesses and farmers markets is one of the best ways that you can help stimulate the economic growth of your own community, and this also goes for supporting local economies when traveling!
While there are many benefits to living in an era where products from all across the globe are available to us with the click of a mouse, the impacts on local economies and our global environment can be devastating. So if you want to keep your carbon footprint down, and help support those right within your local community (or within the communities you visit) aim to shop small and local whenever possible.
Now more than ever we are seeing a revival away from the large big-box retailers, and back towards the small-businesses who are truly working hard to improve the well-being of their local community, while also making the best impact they can on the greater environment — and they deserve our support and purchases whenever possible.
Make Your Demand For Ethical Working Conditions Heard
We are so far removed today from the way in which our food and most of our consumer products are brought to us that it has allowed for consumers to unwillingly support businesses who exploit the people and communities they source from.
While we shouldn't have to research the ethics and sourcing standards of every company we choose to purchase from (and most likely that isn't entirely realistic), unfortunately today if you want to be a more informed consumer then asking a few questions before you make a purchase is important, and a great way to improve your social impact.
Companies like Arbor Teas for example have been able to create truly sustainable and ethical supply chains thanks to consumers who believed in their mission, products, and purpose. This has allowed them to source entirely from small-scale farmers who are using organic and fair trade practices, and whose methods of farming are not only creating a high-quality product, but giving back to the land and local community.
So before you make a purchase I would like to encourage you to ask the following three questions:
Who made or grew this product?
How was it made or grown?
Does this product have a positive or negative social impact?
Asking these three questions can help you take a step back from compulsive buying and can guide you through some of details we all really should know before choosing to support a company with our money and potentially a system we wouldn't choose to support if we had the information available to us.
Some ways that you can determine if a company is using ethical labor practices is by looking for the B-Corporation label, the Fair Trade Certified Label, or by doing a search of the companies sourcing standards and ethics, which today should be readily available if the company is using ethical sourcing practices.
If you are a tea lover like me and are looking for a tea comapny you can trust when it comes to ethical sourcing, and the highest standards for environmental stewardship then I highly recommend purchasing from Arbor Teas. Not only are their teas delicious, but they are incredibly affordable and you can feel confident knowing that you are supporting a company that is working tirelessly to improve our global food system and the people, communities, and lands that make it possible.
Do you choose to purchase or support companies based on their social impact? With more companies choosing to innovate and transition to an impact forward business model, we are only just beginning to see the impact that social impact forward business can have on our most pressing social and environmental issues today.