Don’t want your dirty laundry aired in public? Then stay clean!

By Anj Handa

We’re all being affected by a prolonged period of low economic growth and inequality in our communities. As global citizens, we have the choice to use our advantages for the benefit of wider society.

Now that talk of social impact has been gaining importance, I often hearing the term used interchangeably with reputation. Reputation and social impact are not the same thing.

Sure, an organisation’s reputation will be affected by the impact (good or bad) that it makes on society. A loss of reputation can sometimes result in companies doing good to try to recover their damaged reputations.

Social impact is how you show up in business or society – and why. Reputation arises as a result.

Having responsible business practices is no longer a ‘nice-to-do’, it’s a ‘must-do’.

The relationship between social impact and your reputation

Switched-on organisations understand that it’s more important than ever to attract, keep and enable people to thrive, whether these are your employees, customers, partners or the wider community. Your reputation and your revenues depend on it.

For those that doubt how it can affect your bottom line, let me remind you about a little term called ‘Goodwill’, an intangible asset that is listed on your balance sheet. The way Goodwill is calculated is subjective, but a visible focus on making positive social impact can contribute to this figure.

Reputation, on the other hand, does not appear on your balance sheet, but is valuable and in this world of fast-paced communications, can be undone in an instant. You have to remain aligned to your values and what you say you stand for.

My advice to companies that have messed up is this: Swiftly and sincerely admit you've made a mistake. Spin, blame-shifting and excuses only serve to hinder your recovery. Click To Tweet

A true story

Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I was involved in the rollout of a national supply chain programme for a large construction firm, educating their private sector suppliers about the Public Sector Equality Duties (yes, anyone in the chain of public funding has responsibilities and it can’t be delegated).

Unfortunately, we hadn’t reached a certain part of the country yet, when an incident occurred that was damaging to the company, the local authority and the sub-contracted, a small firm which employed around 50 people locally.

The company had won a project working on refurbishing social housing stock and had sub-contracted the work out. One of the employees was a young Apprentice, who, on noting the (let’s say rather large) trousers of the tenant laid out in his bedroom, got a colleague to take a photo of him holding up said trousers with a mocking smile.

Later, he took it upon himself to post the photo on his Facebook page. Somehow, the tenant discovered this and furiously contacted the Local Authority – and the national press. You can guess the rest…

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Has your Board and Leadership team considered the social impact that you make? I mean, really considered it? It’s rarely on meeting agendas, yet it concerns everything to do with your visibility and your relationship with all stakeholders: how your business is percieved, and whether people want to work or trade with you.

I’ll put it another way – would you now want to fly United?

If you don’t know where to start, drop me an email to anj@inspiringwomenchangemakers.co.uk to book your no-strings advisory call.

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