Perception and Reality for Social Impact.
Digitalization is not influencing corporate citizenship as much as it is other business units. However, companies recognize that digital technologies not only can open up new areas for engagement – when used thoughtfully, they also can create pathways to understanding social issues and discovering potential solutions.
Technology generally makes business processes faster and easier, including those related to their social impact efforts: managing funds allocation, involving stakeholders, etc. U.S. companies, though, must guard against a tendency to value efficiency over impact.
Digitalization improves communication with stakeholders. Digital communication tools provide mechanisms for feedback, in turn giving companies an opportunity to involve stakeholders in decision-making processes – which leads to increasing internal and external perceptions of authenticity, transparency and trust. At the same time, however, companies must be prepared for stakeholders’ increased expectations of being involved.
Digital technology can improve partnerships by enabling both sides to better understand and meet each other’s needs. Insufficient digital tools To a high degree, corporate citizenship practitioners perceive digital tools as too expensive or too threatening to data security. This is an area that merits additional research to meet an individual company’s needs.
While practitioners decry the lack of tools (see #5), they do agree that specific digital tools could make tracking and measuring a program’s impact easier. The key challenge to address is the lack of an agreed-on definition of social impact and what indicators to measure.
Many companies interviewed and surveyed lack a vision for using digital tools to enhance their corporate social impact initiatives. The situation is exacerbated by impact being measured across a number of company divisions (CSR, HR, Diversity & Inclusion, etc.). Companies need an overarching corporate citizenship strategy with unanimously defined outcomes and measurements.
LACK OF INNOVATION
While some of the companies interviewed and surveyed already engage in digitalization-related discussions, most are not using digital tools to revolutionize their corporate citizenship programs. This is truly unfortunate, since companies are the most likely to have the resources and competencies to advance the social sector with innovative digital solutions.