A company’s commitment to social impact—often seen in the wild as sustainable, ethical, compassionate, and responsible business behavior—has never been more important to consumers, investors, employees, and stakeholders across the board. We see these efforts taking place at companies ranging from Airbnb, which works with their host network to house refugees, to Walmart and its job-placement initiatives for veterans and military spouses.
Yet as a result of the recent economic downturn and increasing politicization of environmental, societal, and governance (ESG) efforts, many brands are left questioning their investments in impact. CEOs, CFOs, chief sustainability officers, chief marketing officers, and other top-level executives are at an apparent crossroads when it comes to impact-oriented corporate strategy. Can business leaders confidently continue these well-intentioned initiatives despite a turbulent market and social conditions? And is it possible to push through in a meaningful, authentic way that addresses both potential risks and upsides?