In brief

In brief

  • Social value has become a driver of both business performance and a range of intangible assets, such as customer loyalty and brand relevance.
  • Businesses must play a critical role in helping to address unprecedented social and environmental challenges around the world.
  • But they can only fully understand and combat these issues if they have the right data and know how to use it.
  • Accenture has identified five principles that help businesses shape an effective strategy for gathering, assessing and using data for good.

The new corporate imperative

Businesses must work in new ways to address the unprecedented challenges the world now faces. People, companies, governments, organizations and communities will need to come together to address critical issues ranging from the future of work and climate change to equality, human rights and responsible innovation.

This growing corporate trend to combine social value with business value has been put into overdrive by the global COVID-19 pandemic. As the healthcare, economic and humanitarian emergency spread around the world, business leaders have had to act quickly. Flexible work practices have been adopted to protect and help employees and their households, as well as new platforms that are designed to help people move easily into new roles where there is the most need for their skills and experience. At the same time, operations and supply chains have been rapidly repurposed to meet sudden spikes in demand and help communities manage the crisis.

Data is the key that unlocks social outcomes

Consider social and environmental ills like pollution, poverty, homelessness and hunger. Or the exclusion of people with physical or mental health challenges from the workforce. To proactively impact these issues, companies can include social responsibility in their core business. It does not have to be a secondary initiative. To achieve this, data is vital. Companies can only fully understand and combat these issues if they have the necessary data. But this data is often not readily available, or is only partially available.

Five principles

Our research has identified five key principles for building a comprehensive data-for-good strategy that helps solve these problems. Based on an analysis of numerous initiatives (including many implemented by Accenture Labs) and interviews with a range of C-level experts from the corporate and nonprofit sectors, these principles help position data as a key enabler for activating and sustaining purpose-based business growth and other social change initiatives.

The five principles are:

Be crystal clear about outcomes

  • Start with the end goal
  • Ask key questions
  • Launch the data discovery

Map your ecosystem

  • Identify core competencies—data, technology, skills
  • An inside-out approach?
  • An outside-in approach?

Expand capacity, expertise and insights

  • Build dynamic solutions with data
  • Create a cadre of managerial expertise
  • Effectively communicate the impact

Make ethics your default

  • Emphasize a values-oriented approach
  • Mitigate risks
  • Apply advanced techniques to protect privacy

Join the policy conversation

Governments can act as enablers or partners to ensure that projects with promise get scaled and replicated across a geography.

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Your power to do good rests on the data

Using the five principles outlined above, businesses can develop a data strategy that begins to overcome the barriers to combining business value with social value. With crystal clarity on outcomes, they can start showing their stakeholders (including their customers) that they are making a difference. By mapping their ecosystem interdependencies, they can create coalitions for change. By creating a new cadre of expertise, they can embed sustainability and social good into the very core of the business. And by adopting an ethics-first approach, and getting engaged in policy conversations, they can better manage the risks, enhance trust, improve regulations and maintain their license to operate. These capabilities will be increasingly essential as companies look to realize their new and expanded corporate purpose of doing social good.

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