Social impact and community relations: Why do they matter in business?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Authors:  

Dr Hayley Watson | Director, Sociotech Innovation
Toby Fenton | Senior Product Manager

Date: 2 May 2023

In today’s business climate, sustainability and accountability can’t be brushed off as ‘nice to haves’ they’re the kind of ‘must haves’ that can affect your business’s bottom line. The British Business Bank  explains it like this: 

According to the CBI (Confederation of British Industry), two-thirds of investors take ESG factors into account when investing in a company meaning ESG has the potential to grow your business while benefiting the environment and community. 

ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) concerns go beyond Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). They refer to factors  used “to measure and evaluate a business’s impact on society, the environment, and how transparent, accountable and sustainable it is.” ESG provides a framework that your business can use to advance responsible business practices, enhance your reputation in the marketplace, attract customers, and deliver greater impact. 

But measuring and evaluating the social impact of a business can be a complex process. Not only do you need to assess all those social factors relevant to your internal operations, such as employee wellbeing, employee satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, and labour conditions. You also need to consider the external social impact of your organisation on the community in which it operates.  

For investors, appraising a company’s or organisation’s social impact is an increasingly critical component in sustainable, responsible, and ethical investment practices. 

How can data support community relations, and inform social impact monitoring and evaluation operations? 

Data is key for ESG. It’s a powerful force in driving positive reputation and building accountability, understanding, and trust within business operations and within the wider community. Data-driven monitoring and evaluation powers better business decision-making. For investors, using the right data in the right way supports enhanced due diligence and compliance activities.

It can also ensure they’re supporting businesses whose practices and values align with their own social impact aims.   

Some of the ways data can be used to drive understanding and decision-making around social impact and community relations include: 

  • Understanding the cultural and social practices of the community | What are their social and cultural practices and customs? What is the socio-demographic make-up of the community? What are their business practices? What are their communication and leadership styles? Understanding the cultural and social practices of a community is essential to building strong community relations. Data can be used to achieve this. 
  • Understanding the concerns of the community, cultivating relationships, and informing initiatives | Stakeholder engagement is critical to building community relations. To do this, it’s necessary to understand community sentiment, interests and needs, and any problems they might be facing. A stronger understanding of the community can drive a proactive approach to developing and maturing relationships and trust with that community.
  • Understanding local political and economic stability | What are the local political views? How would they affect your business? How does the local economy perform, and can it support your business growth? How reliant is your business on these factors? The stability of the local economy and political landscape will both directly and indirectly affect the success of your business. 
  • Understanding local infrastructure and logistics | Evaluating the local infrastructure and logistics, including transportation, communication, and supply chain capabilities helps you identify potential barriers to entry and develop a plan to overcome them. 
  • Understanding your business’s responsibilities to legal and regulatory compliance | Companies need to properly understand the laws and regulations applicable to the countries in which they operate. Gaining insight into this early in the decision-making process helps ensure you are fully informed of the requirements your business needs to meet and the risks you need to handle. 
  • Understanding, measuring, and evaluating the impact of business operations on the community | Not only will bad business decisions have a negative impact on the local community; they will negatively affect you; introducing ethical, financial, legal, and even existential risks to your operations. Data can be used to run social impact assessments within the locale in which you’re operating, presenting senior decision-makers with a clearer view of impacts and risks over time and place. This may involve identifying the positive and negative impacts of your company’s activities, as well as assessing the impacts from its supply chain and other stakeholders. 

With great understanding comes great reporting. By using data in the right way, businesses can develop evidence-based planning and reporting procedures to ensure they’re meeting their social impact and community relations objectives. In turn, this helps positively impact the community while building a stronger business reputation (locally and globally – information travels fast these days) and actively tackling business risks.  

And for investors, they can now evaluate these business-community relations and practices, using this understanding to check they’re investing in those companies with a strong and demonstrable commitment to social impact and positive social outcomes. It’s a win-win all round. 

How can Honeycomb help? 

We’ve talked about the benefits of using data in relation to social impact and community relations. So, how can our Ethical AI application, Honeycomb, help you do this? Drawing a thread from data collection and processing, onto analysis, and through to extraction and presentation of critical insights, Honeycomb can provide a crucial improvement in a companies’ monitoring, evaluation and reporting efforts around social impact and community relations. Let’s look at a few highlights: 

  • Geo-spatial understanding | From social, economic, and demographic information to infrastructure and logistics locations, to the political and regulatory landscape, Honeycomb can collect, process, and visualise valuable data to provide a foundational geospatial lens over a business’s community and local environment. 
  • Driving community relations |Honeycomb’s natural language processing (NLP) tools can be used to extract and communicate insights and perspectives from unstructured (i.e., qualitative) data. Honeycomb can support a systematic approach to data collection and analysis, such as interviews, focus groups, surveys, and observational studies. This ensures you capture more meaningful data that can be analysed at pace – driving community engagement. 
  • Risk assessment | Risks fluctuate across time, place, and type of business operation. Honeycomb can help you harness your data to understand the risks related to social impact and community engagement. It flags areas where you will want to focus your attention and resources, dive deeper into the risk factors at play, and target your risk mitigation resources to enhance your overall risk strategy. 
  • Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) | Monitoring and evaluating your business operations and activities is an essential activity, but it’s something that many companies still struggle to bring under meaningful control. Honeycomb can analyse substantial amounts of M&E data quickly, efficiently, and accurately. This helps you identify trends, patterns, and insights that would be difficult – and resource-intensive! – to do manually. Honeycomb generates digestible insights that are clear, understandable, explainable, and actionable for your key stakeholders and decision-makers. 

Interested in how we can help you hit your ESG and corporate social responsibility goals with the proper use of AI and data? Find out more about Honeycomb, or Contact us

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