Social impact: a strategic opportunity to integrate into any organization

The new course Social Innovation: A Strategic Driver for Organizational Performance will be available in March 2021 at HEC’s Executive Education School. To talk about it, the Pôle IDEOS and the MIS have invited four inspiring panellists to a webinar on November 30, 2020, to share their own experiences. These panellists have chosen to hybridize their activities with those of stakeholders from the private and social sectors, in order to maximize their positive impact for society:

A necessary transformation of the economy and society

For Todd Khozein, it is high time to transform the current system, whose harmful effects and business model rely only on impact reduction as an option. “It’s not about being good, it’s about doing things in a smart way.” Do we really want an economic activity that generates human suffering and the destruction of our environment?

It is by placing collaboration and inclusion at the heart of their approach that SecondMuse is working to build a resilient economy, engaging all the stakeholders in the ecosystem, as they did for the Circulate Capital Ocean Fund project. This investment fund, the first of its kind, finances the cleaning-up of the oceans by supporting waste management and recycling companies in South Asia. Pepsi, Coca-Cola, and Unilever support this initiative, which contributes to the development of new technologies with a positive ecological impact, the protection of the environment and the reduction of social inequalities, particularly for women living in conditions of poverty.

Indeed, one cannot claim to want to tackle today’s major issues without inviting all actors in society to collaborate and do their part in order to truly redefine and transform the system that perpetuates today’s socio-environmental challenges.

By integrating social impact into their value creation systems, private companies and social organizations are coming together around a new model of collaboration, where each party agrees on the creation of a business and social return on investment (ROI). For example, through a value chain that has become hybrid, stakeholders activate a process of co-creating social and business values for a service or product, while ensuring sound risk management for each party. 

According to Todd Khozein, the selling point and interest of hybrid value chain systems lie in the integration of different forms of capital such as capital for social justice, capital for the environment, capital for economic development, and capital in search of financial returns. This minimizes the risks for everyone and allows the creation of new business models that combine concepts that have remained opposed until now: competition OR AND collaboration; long-term social value OR AND profitability; quality OR AND affordability; private sector OR AND social innovation.

« It is by taking action that solutions emerge, with partnerships that naturally take shape around shared values, and that open up the field of possibilities to the point of ultimately changing the business model. »

Véronique Lemieux

From a study on the integration of crushed glass in urban agriculture soils, Véronique Lemieux’s project has evolved over time and as opportunities arose to become Vignes en ville: a business project supported by the Laboratoire sur l’agriculture urbaine and presented by the SAQ. Anxious to find new ways of adding value to glass, the SAQ took an interest in this soil containing the crushed glass of its products and in which grapevine grows particularly well!

How can this strategy be integrated into decision-making?

Where should one start a reflection on hybrid value chain systems? The first steps are: 

  • understand the impact that the business wants to create,
  • identify the gains to be made and the assets to be leveraged from both the private and social sectors,
  • identify the social groups with which to collaborate,
  • design a strategy to mobilize the organization and design the hybrid value chain.

« Hybrid value chains are mechanisms that can be activated in different ways, at different scales and at different levels of maturity of organizations. »

Patrick Dubé, Executive Director at MIS.

This is demonstrated by Bruno Demers who, within the organization he heads, is working « to create synergies for an architecture with great social impact, with the mission of countering architectural injustice. Architecture sans frontières is foremost an extrapreneurship project of the Ordre des architectes du Québec. Note that it is rare for a professional order to decide to create a charity dedicated to creating social impact. With respect to the hybrid value chain, we are at the heart of the matter. »

The organization drew inspiration from business models developed in the United States to set up its materials recycling program. For example, thanks to donations from individuals or companies, building materials are recovered for reuse in architectural projects or for resale. In four years, 800 tons of materials were diverted from landfills and $2 million worth of materials were put back into circulation. In addition, since Architecture sans frontières is a charitable organization, it issues receipts to donors, which provide them with a tax benefit that can cover the additional cost of dismantling the buildings. This solution unlocks the market for the reuse of materials, which, until now, was not offering any tax benefits that would encourage a move towards a circular economy.

To be coached in the implementation of an impact strategy

To assist companies and organizations in the design of these proactive solutions, the Pôle IDEOS and the MIS are offering a series of six workshops designed to help them in their reflection and in the implementation of their impact strategy. The objectives of this series of workshops are to bring the learning organizations to:

  • _ Understand the contexts and opportunities for innovation and social impact.
  • _ Define an impact strategy adapted to them and their context.
  • _ Take a critical look at their impact strategy, so as to promote coherence between the issues at stake and their raison d’être, and to highlight their own blind spots and avoid falling into the instrumentalisation of impact.
  • _ Identify and reduce the obstacles to the adoption of the project by users and beneficiaries.
  • _ Explore the different strategies for implementing and scaling up their project.

« It is important to be trained in order to challenge oneself, but also to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. It was when I commenced training in sustainable development that I realized the importance of integrating the social impact and not just the environmental impact into our operations. This changed the way I saw the enterprise. »

Frédéric Monette

Since then, Frédéric Monette has prevented the wastage of 48% of the fresh produce passing through the company’s warehouses by switching from a linear to a circular economy. By transforming a product considered as waste in its operations into the raw material for cold-pressed juices, 4,400 tons of fruit and vegetables have been saved from the trash, 3,600 tons of greenhouse gases have been avoided and 350 million litres of water have been saved since Loop Mission was created in 2016.

Want to know more about hybrid value chains? Visit the Ashoka website where the concept originated.

Want to know more about the hybrid value chains implemented by the four invited panellists? Check out the following links: Loop Mission, Vignes en ville, Architecture sans frontières Québec and SecondMuse.

Registration for the course Social Innovation: A Strategic Driver for Organizational Performance is underway for the March 8 to March 22, 2022, session. For those who are already working on the deployment of their social impact strategy, contact the MIS to be kept informed about the development of its future organizational incubator.

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The potential realization of a positive-impact project idea—one that has long been brewing in the back of their minds—has motivated over one hundred change-makers to join the MIS Civic Incubator.

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