Impact Sourcing and Social Investment
At first glance the word “investment” typically invokes thoughts of fiscal capital spent in order to receive future financial gain, whether in profitable returns, as interest, income, or appreciation in value. However, equally as important in the definition is the expenditure of time, effort, and resources in order to effectuate the desired outcome or goal. For Sutherland, it is the marriage of both concepts that ultimately defines our impact sourcing and social investment strategy.
It is no secret that every dollar of investment in a charitable or social mission is only as good as the effort behind the cause. The question, “what will we get for our dollar,” is almost more relevant when discussing social programs. At least with monetary investments for financial gain the goal is simple: increase above and beyond from the principle amount you put in. However, with charitable and social investments the goals are often subjective and vary depending on the cause. Forcing a definitive roadmap for where each dollar goes, and what each dollar accomplishes in the world of social impact is the key to a successful return on investment.
Prudence dictates that an analysis of the force multiplier on an impact investment is of paramount importance. Will the investment be spent in the right places? How many lives will be impacted? What will the impact be? What result will be generated from each dollar given? From a corporate standpoint, these are the types of questions that we must ask ourselves prior to deciding on which social causes and programs to financially support.
Without proper execution by motivated and competent resources,
an investment for social impact slips into the muddy waters and
can become mired in risk and potential failure.
As most of you reading this have probably experienced, simply funding a charitable cause or giving money to benefit a social program does not necessarily guarantee a positive outcome. Just like financial investments for profit, social ones are not immune to risk or failure, even if the intentions are all coming from the right place. With that said there are ways to manage associated risks and increase the odds that the investment reaches its full potential and impact.
Increasing the Odds for Success
Sutherland takes a two-tiered approach when analyzing potential impact sourcing investments. First, capital expenditures may be required to initially fund a project or program but the crucial investment is the human element that follows. Without proper execution by motivated and competent resources, an investment for social impact slips into the muddy waters and can become mired in risk and potential failure.
One solution to increase the chances of impact sourcing investment success is to maintain control, or at least oversight, on the entire project with input or assistance from strategic partners if necessary. This is by no means a criticism of the hundreds, if not thousands, of amazing social programs and sourcing projects in existence but merely an observation based on past experience. Sutherland certainly does not advocate the abandonment of regular charitable and social giving but rather a divestiture of your CSR portfolio to also include some home-grown efforts.
Allow me to provide a real time example. Over the past few months Sutherland made the decision to expand our hallmark CSR project from its existing locations in India and the Philippines to Jamaica. The Community Technology Center program, CTC as it’s called, provides free digital literacy training and certification to the community at large, focusing on vulnerable and underserved areas. The first step was to assemble a team of individuals whose experience and motivation could provide the necessary “effort investment”. This was followed by the capital investment through corporate funds for the required facility space and related assets needed to offer the program.
After the initial set-up was completed, we next leveraged our strategic partnerships. Microsoft generously provides the software needed and the certification curriculum and local NGOs and community groups provide access to a student pool. With all that in place the local team of Sutherland human capital was able to take over and get up and running. We are proud to say that as of right now a soft launch has already begun and Sutherland is now impacting the lives of many people in Kingston by empowering them with a free, basic digital education.
The Sutherland strategy is only one answer of many when it comes to social impact investments but it is one that we have found to be effective, especially when talking about the CTC program. Our success with the CTC program was borne out of trial by error and years of tweaking the model. While we are proud to highlight this program and the awards it has generated, the real reward is the impact it has had on tens of thousands of lives.
In closing, Sutherland invites you to join the worthy cause of worldwide digital literacy. Imagine the number of lives that would be impacted if hundreds or thousands of other socially responsible companies of all sizes invested their time, effort, and capital into this program as well. To that end we have created a “cookbook” of sorts with a recipe that outlines the steps to create your own CTC center and operate autonomously. We encourage you to leverage our experience, successes, and most importantly the roadblocks we faced. Excuse the financial pun but this is an impact investment that is sure to produce a return and we have the prospectus to get you there. Please feel free to reach out and we would be more than happy to assist in your jumpstart.
About the Author: Jay Essley is the Director of Global Client Engagement at Sutherland Global Services where his day to day responsibilities focus on the negotiation of commercial contracts. In addition, Mr. Essley is General Counsel to SGS’ Corporate Social Responsibility Board. In that capacity he has taken a lead in promoting SGS’ efforts to codify comprehensive CSR policies and engage partners in continued CSR efforts. Prior to joining Sutherland Jay was a commercial trial attorney in New York City and remains a member of the NYS Bar Association and the American Bar Association.
Contact Jay at: JasonM.Essley@sutherlandglobal.com
Sutherland Global Services presently maintains relationships with over 150 multinational corporations, healthcare providers, governments and universities around the globe.