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Social Impact: Definition And Examples 2024

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Social Impact Definition

Have you ever wondered if your actions could change the world? 

Well, guess what? 

They can – and I'm here to tell you how. 

In our fast-paced lives, it's easy to forget that the ripples we create can turn into waves of change. 

That's the power of social impact. A concept so simple yet so profound. 

So, are you ready to learn more? 

Let's explore the exciting world of social impact together. 

What is a social impact?

When we talk about social impact, what exactly are we referring to? 

At its core, social impact is about creating positive change in society. It's about actions, big or small, that leave a lasting, beneficial imprint on communities and individuals. 

Social impact is taking action in a way that transcends our own immediate needs to improve communal well-being. Whether it's through volunteering, donations, or advocating for policy changes, every effort counts. 

The beauty of social impact lies in its accessibility. Everyone can create social impact in their own unique way. 

Why should you care about having a positive social impact?

Pressing social challenges grows more complex by the day.  

As such, you might wonder why you, as an individual, should focus on having a positive social impact. The answer lies in the power of collective action and its ability to drive meaningful progress. 

When we contribute to systemic change, we create a strong force to make change happen. Whether it's inequality, climate change, or education reform, your involvement helps real transformation. 

By caring about social impact, you help others and shape a better world for future generations. 

It's about being part of something larger than yourself. Belonging to a movement where every effort, every voice, and every action contributes to a tapestry of change. 

Examples of social impact for positive change

Social impact creates possibilities for positive change. From individual actions to large-scale initiatives, every step taken toward betterment counts. 

Businesses and organizations have the power to influence society positively.  They set an example for others to follow. 

Below, we'll explore tangible examples of social impact. These examples show the impact of purpose-driven actions. 

They also will inspire you to think about how you or your organization, can contribute to a more sustainable and fair world. 

Let's explore the many faces of social impact, each unique yet united in the goal of fostering a better tomorrow.

#1 Environmental Conservation

Environmental conservation initiatives create a significant social impact. This is especially true with the current global environmental challenges. There are countless environmental charities fighting to protect the environment. 

These initiatives focus on protecting natural resources, reducing carbon footprints, and promoting sustainable practices. 

Social Impact and environmental conservation

A prime example of such an effort is Patagonia's Environmental Responsibility Programs. 

The eCommerce and retail company Patagonia, known for its commitment to sustainability, has been actively working to reduce its environmental footprint. 

One of their main focuses is reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. Patagonia is transitioning to 100% renewable energy in its stores, offices, and distribution centers.  

The popular eco-friendly clothing brand is also addressing the major challenge of materials manufacturing. This is significant since materials manufacturing accounts for about 85% of their emissions.

Since 1996, Patagonia has used only organically grown cotton in its virgin cotton products. And as of 2022, 88% of its product line comprises preferred materials like:

  • Organic cotton

  • Hemp

  • Recycled polyester

  • Recycled nylon

Patagonia's goals for the future are ambitious and reflective of its commitment to making a difference in environmental conservation. 

By 2025, they aim to cut virgin petroleum fiber in their products. This change alone is expected to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels significantly. 

Additionally, by 2025, they plan for their packaging to be:

  • Completely reusable

  • Home compostable

  • Renewable

  • Easily recyclable

Looking further ahead, Patagonia has set a goal to be net zero across its business by 2040. The focus is on reducing their footprint and investing in natural climate solutions.

Through these comprehensive efforts, Patagonia contributes to environmental conservation and sets a benchmark for corporate responsibility in environmental protection. 

Patagonia's actions prove that businesses can play a pivotal role in addressing global environmental issues while still achieving their commercial objectives.

#2 Educational initiatives

Educational initiatives are powerful tools for making a positive difference in society. 

They focus on providing quality education and skill development. This prepares the next generation for the challenges and opportunities of the future. 

A prime example of such an initiative is Intel's comprehensive approach to education. 

Intel is expanding access to technology skills and experiences. This ensures that the next generation is diverse, empowered, and inclusive. 

One of Intel's key strategies is to close critical gaps in workforce development and youth empowerment programs. 

They do this through:

  • Technology curricula

  • Hands-on innovation experiences

  • Employability skills training

Additionally, Intel focuses on closing gender gaps in technology. The semiconductor giant empowers girls and women to use technology. As a result, they are better connected to economic and social opportunities.

Real-world examples of Intel's impact include the story of high schooler Jennifer Torres. Torres gained essential technology and business skills through Intel's Future Skills program. This enabled her to land her dream internship despite financial constraints.

#3 Healthcare improvements

Healthcare initiatives are essential components of social impact. These initiatives focus on enhancing the well-being and health of communities. 

Healthcare initiatives can range from supplying medical resources to implementing innovative healthcare solutions. 

Supporting healthcare as a social impact initiative

A noteworthy example of a healthcare initiative with a large social impact is the CIBC Run for the Cure

The CIBC Run for the Cure is a landmark event in the fight against breast cancer. 

This initiative has become one of Canada's largest single-day, volunteer-led events dedicated to raising funds for breast cancer research, education, and advocacy. 

The Run for the Cure creates a powerful platform by bringing together communities nationwide. The platform is not just for raising funds. It also increases awareness about breast cancer, supports those affected by it, and creates a sense of solidarity and hope. 

The event symbolizes the power of collective action in addressing health issues. It underscores the positive impact that well-organized health initiatives have. 

Through such endeavours, we see the real-life embodiment of how concerted efforts in the healthcare sector can lead to meaningful advancements in medical research, patient support, and community well-being.

#4 Economic Development

Economic initiatives are crucial in the realm of social impact. They aim to uplift communities by fostering economic growth and stability. 

These initiatives often focus on:

  • Empowering vulnerable populations

  • Creating job opportunities

  • Promoting sustainable economic practices

The Coca-Cola Foundation's commitment to economic empowerment is a compelling example of this. 

As the philanthropic arm of The Coca-Cola Company, the Foundation addresses global challenges. The foundation invests in ideas and institutions that are differentiators for communities worldwide. 

With a mission to tackle pressing global challenges, the Foundation has awarded over $1.5 billion in grants to support various initiatives. 

Among these, a key focus is economic empowerment, recognizing that 3.4 billion people globally are economically vulnerable. The Coca-Cola Foundation supports education, workforce development, and entrepreneurship opportunities.  

Through such initiatives, the Coca-Cola Foundation demonstrates how corporations can drive social impact by contributing to economic development and improving societies.

#5 Social Equality and Inclusion

Social equality and inclusion initiatives create a sense of belonging and empowerment within local communities. They involve working with community partners to create environments where everyone can participate and thrive, regardless of background. 

A notable example of this is the Canadian Tire Jumpstart program. 

The Canadian Tire Jumpstart program makes recreation accessible for children from all backgrounds. The program recognizes the role of physical activity in a healthy and inclusive community. 

This initiative provides individual child grants to families in financial need, covering the costs of participating in sports and recreation. 

By focusing on removing financial barriers to sports participation, Jumpstart not only promotes physical well-being but also contributes to the social and emotional development of children. 

This approach reflects a deep understanding of how to measure social impact through practical, community-centered actions. 

Through its efforts, Jumpstart exemplifies how initiatives aimed at social equality and inclusion can make a big difference in the lives of individuals and, by extension, their communities.

#6 Mental Health Awareness

Mental health initiatives improve the well-being of individuals and communities. 

These programs aim to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and support mental health issues. 

Mental Health Sitting on a couch

A notable example of such an initiative is the Bell Let's Talk program. 

Bell Let's Talk promotes mental health awareness and support across Canada. 

Through its various campaigns and activities, the program seeks to:

  • Open up conversations about mental health

  • Reduce stigma

  • Support mental health organizations and initiatives

Bell Let's Talk shows how a business's actions directly impact addressing mental health challenges. 

This initiative shows how efforts in mental health advocacy lead to social impact.  It improves lives and creates a more supportive and understanding society.

#7 Human Rights Advocacy

Human rights initiatives fight to ensure equity and fairness on a global scale. 

Some of the main focus areas are:

  • Freedom of expression

  • Gender equality 

  • Freedom of slavery

  • Access to education

  • Equal pay

These initiatives often challenge existing norms and push for systemic changes. 

A prime example is the retail and eCommerce brand Lush. Lush is committed to human rights advocacy through its Ethical Charter. 

Lush's Ethical Charter is a comprehensive set of principles that guide the company's operations. There is a strong emphasis on human rights. 

This includes:

  • A policy of fair wages for staff

  • A commitment to vegetarian products with vegan options

  • A firm stance against animal testing

  • An environment of diversity and inclusion 

Lush's "All Are Welcome, Always" policy exemplifies their commitment to diversity and inclusion. It ensures a welcoming environment for both staff and customers. 

These principles show Lush's dedication to creating an ethical business model that consumers seek. By aligning with their values, Lush contributes to social impact on a global scale.

How to create social impact in the eCommerce industry

Creating social impact in eCommerce

Creating social impact in eCommerce is about balancing social good and profit. 

It involves embedding positive social values into every aspect of the business model. 

This can be achieved by:

  • Collecting donations for impactful causes

  • Prioritizing sustainable and ethical sourcing

  • Ensuring fair labour practices across the supply chain

  • Offering products that contribute to social causes

Additionally, implementing a give-back program where a part of profits supports community initiatives can reinforce the commitment to social impact. 

By integrating these elements, eCommerce businesses can create a brand with values that positively impacts society. 

Having a positive impact on your surrounding community

A positive impact on your community can create ripples extending to the broader community. 

It starts with recognizing the unique needs of your local area and taking actionable steps to address them. 

Volunteering your time, sharing skills, or supporting local businesses and charities are great ways to begin. 

Organizing community events or clean-ups, participating in local decision-making, or being a supportive neighbour also makes a difference. 

By actively contributing, you improve the quality of life for those around you. You also set a powerful example of social responsibility

Engaging in such activities addresses immediate needs and fosters a sense of unity and strength in the community. 

The reasons for doing this are manifold:

  • It strengthens community bonds

  • Addresses local issues

  • Builds a sense of personal fulfilment and collective resilience

Remember, every small action counts, and your contribution can inspire others to join in. This creates a cumulative effect that can transform your community.

Wrap Up

Reflecting on the importance of social impact, especially in the eCommerce sector, leads us to a crucial question

How can your business make a tangible difference while thriving in a competitive market? 

Thankfully there are some great tools (like Virtue) that you can leverage to support your mission. Choose a cause that aligns with your goals and start giving back today.


Julian Lankstead

This post was created in collaboration with Julian Lankstead


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