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Mastering Social and Environmental Impact Measurement

An Introduction to Effective Impact Measurement for Businesses 

We fly further and achieve more when we collaborate, and this guide is a good example: We partnered with the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN) to produce a thorough and easy-to-understand introduction on how to measure impact. It’s a perfect entry point if your organization is beginning its journey of creating impact and a great refresher even if you’ve been at the impact game awhile. We tip our hats to Theresa Gassert, a policy fellow at SBN, who was the primary author and a thoughtful and congenial collaborator on this endeavor.

What is impact?

A business’s impact is the effect of its activities, operations, products, and services on its stakeholders, company, community, and environment. Key areas of business impact can include:

  • Financial Impact: How a business maintains or improves their bottom line, including through revenue, profit, and shareholder value.
  • Social Impact: Influence on societal well-being, such as job creation, community stewardship,  or contributions to advancing social causes.
  • Environmental Impact: A business’s environmental footprint, including efforts to curb emissions, pollution, resource use, waste, or litter. 
  • Customer Impact: Experience and satisfaction of customers resulting from interactions with the business and their products and services. 
  • Employee Impact: Effects on employee well-being, engagement, and development, such as workplace culture, training, and benefits.
  • Supplier Impact: How a business benefits the local supply chain, and prioritizes values-aligned vendors or local suppliers in its operations. 

Why measuring impact matters

In today’s dynamic business landscape, measuring impact has increasingly become both a social responsibility and strategic advantage for business owners. Measuring impact can result in a range of benefits for businesses, such as: 

  • Enhancing brand reputation, value, and loyalty
  • Cost savings and improved efficiency
  • Identifying and mitigating future risk
  • Stimulating further innovation 
  • Uncovering market opportunities
  • Improving access to capital and other investments
  • Improving competitive advantage 

Beginner tips for measuring your business’s impact effectively

Measuring impact doesn’t have to be difficult. Your business can right-size measuring your impact to meet your unique goals, capacity, and organizational needs. No matter what size your business or team, these tips will help you begin or improve measuring impact for your business.

  1. Define areas of impact: begin by identifying the key areas of impact your business cares about the most. Clearly define what success looks like in each area to guide your measurement efforts effectively.
  2. Choose appropriate metrics: Choose metrics that align with your impact areas and are measurable, relevant, and meaningful to your business. Ensure your metrics provide actionable insights and are feasible to collect data on.
  3. Utilize data collection and management tools: provide training and support to employees that may be involved in impact measurement to build their awareness, understanding, and capacity. Foster a culture of learning and continuous improvement where employees feel empowered to engage in impact measurement.
  4. Invest in employee education and capacity building: Provide training and support to employees and stakeholders that may be involved in impact measurement to build their awareness, understanding, and capacity. Foster a culture of learning and continuous improvement where employees feel empowered to engage in impact measurement.
  5. Prioritize equity and inclusion: Ensure that your impact measurement processes are equitable and inclusive, taking into account the perspectives of marginalized or underrepresented groups. Actively engage diverse voices in the design, implementation, and evaluation of impact measurement strategies. 
  6. Start small and iterate: Focus on a few key impact areas rather than trying to measure everything at once. Starting small allows you to refine your measurement approach, identify challenges, and build internal capacity gradually. Continue to review and iterate your measurements based on feedback, lessons learned, and changes in your business.
  7. Look to established frameworks for guidance: Frameworks such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or corporate Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) models can be a helpful place to start when establishing metrics. These frameworks can provide useful guidance to help identify impact areas and goals for your business. 
  8. Consider third-party certification: Third-party certifications offers standardized frameworks for assessing impact and may enhance credibility through verification by a reputable third-party. However, certifications can be costly, time-consuming, and may not be the right fit for every business. Some common certifications include:

Organizations that can help

  • Unit of Impact is the first impact report solution made for small businesses. This platform helps businesses collect, organize, and report impact data. 
  • Impactable X is the first AI-powered impact prediction & analysis engine. This app guides businesses through impact measuring and modeling
  • Impact Essentials provides end-to-end social impact services for small businesses, including strategy development, implementation and evaluation.
  • B Lab US & Canada is the certification entity for the B Corp community and provides standards, tools, policies and programs to support impact-driven businesses.

Additional resources