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Until recently, social impact practices were virtually of no fiscal importance to most companies. But over time, that fact has shifted as an understanding of the significance of social impact practices on a company’s chances of success has grown. Although clear-cut metrics defining the value of social impact via ESG metrics are still being developed: “Social impact is no longer considered a ‘soft’ issue. Diversity, inclusion and sustainability all have direct correlation to the bottom line,” according to Patsy Doerr, Global Head, Corporate Responsibility & Inclusion at Thomson Reuters.

In her role, Doerr has managed to fully integrate social impact and ESG issues into Thomson Reuters’s global operation – in less than a decade. Starting its Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) arm, Doerr’s work quickly made social impact  a distinctive part of Thomson Reuters’s value proposition.

“Six and a half years ago I joined Thomson Reuters with the task of building a function from scratch,” said Doerr. “Only two years in, my role drastically expanded and I was asked to build a global, enterprise wide social impact strategy. This would now be a threefold function: D&I, which I developed over the course of the previous two years, existing CSR efforts, and a brand new sustainability function.”

Thomson Reuters’s work in social impact, particularly Doerr’s work, serves three primary constituents: talent; customers; and investors.

“Increasingly, talent entering the workforce for the first time – and many who have been in the workforce for some time – care about the values of the companies that they’re working for,” explained Doerr. “They want to work for companies that care about conducting business responsibly – whether that’s a focus on fair business practices, gender and pay parity, environmental factors – and the trends show that companies that operate the most responsibly are attracting the best and brightest talent.

“Likewise, customers are paying more and more attention to the businesses that they’re patronizing. By and large, customers are more likely than ever to choose one business over another based on how those businesses operate, and negative headlines on how a company operates can have a significant – and immediate – impact on that business’s bottom line,” said Doerr.

“And finally, because customers care deeply, their investors care deeply as well. Investors want to align themselves with businesses that are attracting customers and that have the propensity to really grow and succeed in the long-term,” continued Doerr, “And the studies and data that we’ve collected via the ESG Institute show that businesses operating responsibly across the 24 key metrics that we look at are in fact better poised for success in the long-term.”

Thomson Reuters has an extensive database of over 400 metrics derived from more than 6,000 companies globally. Of this, 24 are used for the company’s annual D&I Index which highlights the most diverse and inclusive workplaces. 

“We apply those metrics evenly across the board for the companies that we look at,” said Doerr. “That step is part of the external goal of Doerr and Thomson Reuter to improve companies’ economic performance. Separately, the company houses the ESG Institute was developed by Thomson Reuters to raise awareness around social impact issues and their impact on business and the greater society.  

“Internally, key goals are measured by looking at representation across the company, our company initiative to reach 40% of women in leadership by 2020 and employee engagement,” continued Doerr. “Key performance indicators include volunteer hours, use of gift matching as well as monitoring our carbon footprint.”

Confident that reservations about the effect of social impact on a company’s economic success will dissipate over the long-term, Doerr explained that, “We’ve certainly seen a correlation between social impact and the success of a business, but causation is a factor that’s still playing out. We’re continuing to collect and analyze the data on this topic and feel confident that the proof will be in the pudding, so to speak, very soon.”


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Originally published on Forbes.com. More articles by Christopher Skroupa on his Forbes column.

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