How to have a social impact that matters

By jay

Every year businesses spend millions of dollars on community investment. Yet much is frittered away on partnerships that have little discernible value for either the community or the business. How can you do good while also doing good business?

At the Sustainable Business Network’s event on Doing Good by Doing Good Business on 31 May, leading businesses, social enterprises, academics and individuals met to look at business and social value. Watch the speakers’ presentations in the video below or read these highlights to find out how your business can have a social impact that matters.

Dominic Thurbon – Chief Creative Officer, Karrikins Group


Bonar Vossen-Chong – Senior Sustainability and Community Manager, BNZ


Adriana Christie – Owner, The Pallet Kingdom

Five ways to have a social impact that matters

  1. Get strategic

    What is your business’ unique role in the community? A focused and actionable strategy that ties in with your company’s purpose can help you achieve breakthrough change.

  2. Overcome barriers to change

According to Dominic Thurbon of Karrikins Group the most effective ways of overcoming obstacles are:

  1. Start conversations by focusing on the most complex and important business problems a company is currently facing – rather than on social impact. Non-sustainability business leaders will be more open to the conversation if it is framed in that lens.
  2. Link social impact measurement with business value metrics, and weight them equally strongly.
  • Approach community partners less like you’re procuring a service and more like what the word ‘partnership’ actually means: a mutually beneficial relationship built on respect, where partners’ contributions are valued.
  1. Tell your story

Awareness of community programmes is important in order to create an impact, both externally and internally. BNZ has a strong focus on making sure its staff know about the company’s community work and that there are high levels of participation in its Closed for Good initiatives.

  1. Focus on shared value

Unlike philanthropy (which mostly benefits communities) and Corporate Responsibility (which largely benefits companies), shared value is a way of doing business or solving society issues that shares the benefit between all parties. Good examples include the Discovery Group in South Africa and Eat My Lunch in New Zealand. Shared value initiatives should be strongly aligned with your business’ purpose.

  1. Follow the seven principles of social value

The Pallet Kingdom, which diverts pallets from going to landfill by working with at-risk youth to turn them into pieces of furniture and art, uses the following principles:

  1. Involve stakeholders
  • Understand what changes
  • Value the outcomes that matter
  • Only include what is material
  • Do not over claim
  • Be transparent
  • Verify the result.

Thank you to our speakers: Dominic Thurbon (Karrikins Group), Bonar Vossen-Chong (BNZ), Adrianna Christie (The Pallet Kingdom) and Julia Jackson (formerly SBN’s Community Lead)

 Big thanks also to our sponsors: AUT University, Yealands Wines and Hallertau Beer.