Impact Enterprises will Lead the Global Pandemic Recovery: An Interview with Decade

As the world turns toward economic and social recovery, many individuals and businesses are questioning whether it makes sense to return to “normal” – with many calls to base our rebuilding efforts on improving our collective future and outlook.

In designing and implementing restart plans, we have a golden opportunity to recalibrate the way we live and work, to consider our impact on society and the planet, and to adjust our actions accordingly as we rebuild our world. Businesses have more reason than ever to consider their impact – on their employees, suppliers and customers, as well as the community and the environment – not only from an altruistic mindset, but also to build a foundation for resilience and profit.

We spoke with Brianna Brown, co-founder of Decade – which helps companies build strategies to leave the world better than they found it – to learn why impact enterprises will emerge at the forefront of global pandemic recovery.

COVID-19 has severely disrupted global economies. Why should businesses choose to focus time and resources on designing an impact strategy, rather than prioritizing profitability?

Now is a pivotal moment for companies to take a look at the way they do business – particularly since studies have shown that impact-driven businesses are stronger, more resilient and, in many ways, more profitable, than businesses for which impact isn’t a priority.

Many businesses fundamentally believe leaving a positive impact on the world is the right thing to do, and the devastation caused by COVID-19 will serve as powerful motivation to take action. For others, impact strategy is tied to legacy – helping the world tackle broad social challenges like climate change, or non-inclusivity and diversity – captures attention, strengthens brand presence and increases customer loyalty.

The other component is attracting and retaining talent. People want to work at companies that are giving back in some way, and employees of these businesses tend to show higher levels of satisfaction, engagement and investment in their work. Although unemployment is at an all-time high, from what we’re seeing the war for talent is still alive and well. Many of the companies that are most resilient today are those with strong people and culture practices. We anticipate this will continue in post-COVID-19 recovery.

Finally, impact is important for startups and other businesses seeking acquisition down the road. There are lots of angel investors out there who will only consider investing in companies demonstrating social and environmental responsibility. Impact is a huge value add.

How will impact enterprises succeed at navigating the economic crisis?

We’re seeing impact in a whole new light during this crisis. Unlike previous recessions, our current environment is showing consumers a lot of elements that were once hidden. For example, people are starting to understand the tenuous nature of global supply chains, and demanding to know how companies are ethically, safely and sustainably supporting suppliers and consumers.

Local businesses have also been thrust into the spotlight. When you walk down the street and see your favourite coffee shop boarded up, it instils a sense of loyalty and desire to support other local businesses. There are plenty of feel-good cases of local businesses doing good, whether they’re hair companies producing hand sanitizer or apparel companies outfitting front-line workers, and these are the stories we celebrate and share. People gravitate towards companies that strive to do good.

What is Decade’s role in helping businesses design impact strategies?

We are a management consultant firm whose overarching goal is to help businesses leave the world better than they found it. We guide companies and individuals down the path towards becoming impact enterprises, starting with identifying what impact means to them and continuing towards designing an impact strategy and creating communications and initiatives that support it.

What is Impact 6 Pack?

Impact 6 Pack is a six-week program created by Decade, BDC and the Vancouver Economic Commission. The goal is to help companies achieve B Corporation certification and join a community of leaders who drive the movement of business as a force for good. To date, we’ve guided 60 companies through the process. And, for businesses that don’t have time or money to invest in the program at the moment, it’s a fairly simple process to take the B Corporation Assessment, and it’s free.

Due to physical distancing measures, we’re delivering Impact 6 Pack virtually for the first time. Currently, we’re in the middle of the spring session, with five companies coming together to support each other’s journey. People are really craving a sense of community, and we’re having a lot of inspiring conversations about designing businesses that are impact-driven, empathetic and human-centred. The next session will be this fall, and we’ll soon release details for companies that are ready to invest in their community and global impact!

What other programs does Decade offer to help business transform into impact enterprises?

We’re launching a new program for intrapreneurs – individuals within larger organizations who promote innovative product development or marketing – that helps them successfully advance impact within their companies. And we’re also in the midst of launching a similar program to Impact 6 Pack for communities across Canada.

We also work with businesses one-on-one that are interested in becoming Certified B Corporations, or developing an impact-focused strategic plan. Interestingly, a recent study shows that enquiries about B Corporation certification are rising at unprecedented rates – people are starting to recognize that the impact economy is gaining momentum globally. We strongly believe that impact enterprises will be at the forefront of pandemic recovery, that ultimately people have a desire to work for, buy from and invest in businesses with a purpose. There’s really no downside to exploring an impact strategy.

Read more about the Impact 6 Pack program and check out some of our past interviews with social enterprises: