By Rob Starr, Big4.com Content Manager
As a compliment to the 70th UN General Assembly in October, Deloitte’s newly formed Social Impact Practice had a private meeting with the UN Foundation on how companies can achieve new Sustainable Development Goals by the target date of 2030. Jerry O’Dwyer, Leader, Deloitte’s Social Impact Practice, gave us an overview of the efforts via email on how organizations can tackle persistent societal challenges within an increasingly socially-conscious global community.
Can you provide a brief history of how Deloitte’s Social Impact Practice came about and what it is designed to accomplish?
- Our practice was conceived out of a growing recognition that clients across the private, social, and public sectors are increasingly seeking to realize significant, measurable social impact through their work. In many cases they are looking for support to design and implement high impact strategies. Our longstanding relationships and depth of experience with clients in each of these sectors has positioned us to both spot these trends and proactively respond to the growing demand for these services.
- We want to help our clients succeed in meeting their most ambitious social and business growth
objectives – whether that means improving the lives of communities in need through their products and services, contributing in a meaningful way towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or any number of other opportunities they are pursuing that improve society.
- One of the distinctive things about our practice is that we take an “issues based” approach and look at clients’ challenges from a more holistic perspective. For example, take the issue of water scarcity. It’s a “wicked” problem that requires an ecosystem mindset and a cadre of cross-sector players to help solve this challenge. We apply this wide lens to not only convene but also mobilize and align stakeholders toward this end. This is a more audacious approach to tackling client challenges and a major mindset shift, but we believe overall it will drive better client outcomes with a greater positive societal impact.
What relevant information came out of Deloitte’s private meeting with the UN Foundation?
- During the 70th General Assembly of the United Nations this past September, Deloitte co-hosted a salon dinner with the UN Foundation to dive into the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and unpack the many ways that the private sector could help advance those goals in the years to come. The goals that center on the environment such as Goals 6, 13, 14, 15 in particular represent an important area that will require private sector action to collectively achieve desired progress by 2030. For this reason, within days of the SDGs being announced at the UN General Assembly our Global CEO, Punit Renjen, signed Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change on behalf of Deloitte. This is one of the SDG issue-areas where we are demonstrating a particularly strong commitment.
- Those who attended the dinner primarily represented private sector organizations and offered compelling ideas on roles that multinational companies can play in supporting a shared development agenda. We also discussed how companies are at varying stages of prioritizing social impact within their core business. It was useful to reference the four “corporate archetypes” we’ve identified through our analysis of Fortune 500 companies to help attendees place their own company in context, and explore the implications for driving their forward-looking strategy.
What’s in the future for Deloitte’s Social Impact Practice?
- We continue to evolve and better understand where we can have the most impact with our clients. It’s exciting that we are helping to design and build a new way of doing business that is both financially sustainable and socially impactful. We intend to continue growing the practice and creating roles for more of the talented, passionate individuals who are uniquely qualified for this purpose-driven work. It’s inspiring to see the level of enthusiasm that this is generating, particularly among millennials (see video from our CEO).
What does Deloitte’s Corporate Purpose Archetypes research reveal?
- We’ve seen that social impact has become much more of a priority for Fortune 500 companies to the extent that it has evolved from a PR play to an important part of corporate strategy to protect and create value. Our research underscored this shift, demonstrating that 9 out of 10 Fortune 500 Companies practice social impact in some way, and about 40% of companies have social impact integrated into their global strategy. This trend seems to be driven largely by millennial consumers and enabled by social media tools that have taken accountability and transparency to new heights. Of course, this does vary by industry in terms of the level of investment in and type of social impact pursued. But that’s not the only factor at play – a company’s geography, customer set, and corporate and business unit strategy play important roles in how it prioritizes social impact.