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Australian Businesses Not Prioritising Social Impact, Report Finds

2 May 2018 at 8:37 am
Luke Michael
A new report has found less than a quarter of Australian business leaders believe social responsibility is a top priority in their corporate strategy, despite growing millennial expectations around businesses’ social impact.

Luke Michael | 2 May 2018 at 8:37 am


Australian Businesses Not Prioritising Social Impact, Report Finds
2 May 2018 at 8:37 am

A new report has found less than a quarter of Australian business leaders believe social responsibility is a top priority in their corporate strategy, despite growing millennial expectations around businesses’ social impact.

Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends 2018: The Rise Of The Social Enterprise report surveyed more than 11,000 HR and business leaders around the world on the future of work.

The report highlighted how the world of work was changing to become more personalised and connected, as formal hierarchies become replaced by networks of teams.

Deloitte noted the rapid rise of social enterprise, reflecting the growing importance of social capital to the success of an organisation, and increasing expectations around businesses’ social impact.

However only 23 per cent of Australians surveyed by Deloitte said social responsibility was a top priority reflected in their company’s corporate strategy, while 53 per cent admitted it was not a focus for them.

Anthea Smits, CEO of social enterprise consultancy The Difference Incubator (TDi), told Pro Bono News that the disconnect between the public’s expectations around social impact and businesses’ priorities was “very concerning”.  

I think these businesses should be concerned about that mismatch and misalignment from a broader public perception, or at least in that millennial age group,” Smits said.

“Because eventually these millennials will become their customers, their investors etc. And if they don’t think it’s important to align values, I think some of those businesses will get left behind.”

Smits added that businesses were capable of creating a positive social impact while also remaining commercially viable.

This can feel overwhelming at times, but I think you just need to start with a well-defined mission and [work out] where does your core team want to make an impact, and what makes sense in the context of your business and your commercial imperatives,” she said.

“You don’t have to conquer the world in a day. But you can start somewhere with a well-defined mission and by working out where your team wants to achieve impact.”                 

David Brown, Deloitte human capital leader, said a fundamental change in business practise was underway.

“Society’s expectations of business are changing. The focus is now clearly on business’ role in society as a driver of change, just look at the role they played in the marriage equality debate in Australia late last year,” Brown said.

“In the past we have measured business performance on financials and the quality of products or services. Today, social capital is just as important as – and inextricably linked to – human, financial and physical capital.

“Companies’ reputation, relevance, and bottom-lines increasingly hinge on their ability to act as good citizens and influence pressing public issues.”

Brown said that along with increased transparency and social awareness, business focus was shifting towards building stronger relationships with employees, customers and communities.

“Organisations today are judged for more than their success as a business. They’re now being held responsible for their impact on society at large – their role as a social enterprise,” he said.

“This year’s report is a wake-up call for organisations to look beyond their own four walls, cultivate these relationships in a meaningful way and reimagine their approach to their workforce –  and their broader role in society – if they want to succeed.”

Looking more closely at the report from an Australian perspective, Deloitte found that Australian businesses were prioritising connectivity and collaboration, but felt underprepared due to the scale and pace of change occurring.

So while 90 per cent of Australian businesses jointly ranked a connected workplace and C-suite collaboration as top priorities, only 38 per cent and 43 per cent respectively said they felt ready to address this.

“We’re seeing communication tools traditionally used for social purposes being embraced in the workplace and the lines between personal and business identities blurring,” Brown said.

“The more connected an organisation is, the more important what it is saying becomes. Employees want their workplaces to represent them and their values externally, as much as their own profile and social media presence does.

“To this point, our 2017 Millennial Survey highlighted that this demographic wants business to focus more on people, products and purpose and less on profits.”

The full findings of the report can be viewed here.

Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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