Headshot of Kedra Newsom Reeves, Partner and Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group.
Kedra Newsom Reeves, Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group, shares effective social impact initiatives for businesses. — Nicolette Nunez

Businesses serious about crafting social impact initiatives that generate real results should tap these key strategies, according to Boston Consulting Group Partner and Managing Director Kedra Newsom Reeves:

  • Get the C-suite on board: “If the leadership team is not fully aligned, there’s a possibility of failure,” Reeves said.
  • Empower employees: Understand who your employees are and what they need.
  • Track results: It’s possible to set up key performance indicators that measure social justice impact, she said.

Kedra Newsom Reeves has seen underrepresentation up close: As a computer science and engineering major at MIT, she remembers being one of just a few Black women in her class. Through early volunteering and during graduate studies — Newsom Reeves earned a master’s in business administration from Harvard Business School — she worked on understanding the U.S. public education system.

It was during this time that Newsom Reeves realized that many of the challenges in education “really had almost nothing to do with the school but everything to do with economic inequality [and a lack of] community investment.” The work trained her to look for the nuances tucked into commonly believed narratives.

Newsom Reeves has folded these experiences into the Financial Institutions and Social Impact consulting practices at Boston Consulting Group. She works with clients across sectors on strategic operating models and social impact strategy to drive sustainable value. Newsom Reeves co-leads BCG’s The North America Center for Inclusion and Equity, which helps clients drive more equitable and inclusive practices for employees, within their supply chains, and within core business functions.

Newsom Reeves spoke to CO— about what businesses and organizations can do to hone their social impact strategies and create meaningful change.

Get the C-suite on board

Appointing a C-level officer for social impact and diversity initiatives can help send a signal about the organization’s commitment to such efforts.

In addition, organizations need to fully commit the C-suite to the strategy of creating social impact, Newsom Reeves advised. “In any kind of corporate strategy, if the leadership team is not fully aligned, there’s a possibility of failure,” she pointed out. “If [creating social good] isn’t on your top five or six things in your agenda, then it’s not getting the attention it needs,” Newsom Reeves added.

If [creating social good] isn’t on your top five or six things in your agenda, then it’s not getting the attention it needs.

Kedra Newsom Reeves, Partner and Managing Director, Boston Consulting Group

Empower employees

To get talent on board for significant projects, organizations need to truly be on their side. Understand who your employees are and what they need, Newsom Reeves advised. An employee whose needs are not met is going to leave, drive down retention rates, and drive up recruiting costs, she pointed out.

Having on-site childcare, for example, is one way in which organizations can be inclusive and responsive to the needs of their employees. “Even simple ideas like how you schedule your employees’ hours are important in creating an inclusive atmosphere,” Newsom Reeves said.

[Read: Top DEI Execs from Carter’s, Thumbtack, and Fossil on Diversity Strategies That Drive Real Results]

Assess the internal and external landscape

The first step in implementing social impact projects is to assess inclusion standards within the organization. “What does inclusion look like today in your company and in the markets you’re trying to serve? Make sure you understand the problem or the gap you’re trying to close,” Newsom Reeves advised. It also helps to inventory what’s working—and what’s not. “Find out what you’re doing today that is [furthering] the goal of more equity and what you’re doing that could be better,” she said.

To figure out where organizations are going, they need to know where they’re starting, and situate themselves in the landscape. “The first point is always acknowledging where you are today and understanding it deeply, then you can [evaluate] your aspirations and where you want to be,” Newsom Reeves said. Doing so will help determine the gaps that need to be closed and how those might evolve in the near and long term, she added.

Keep an eye on profitability

While it might be tempting to do so, enterprises need not treat social impact projects with kid gloves. Integrate strategies completely into the business verticals and focus on profitability and scale while driving positive social impact, Newsom Reeves advised organizations.

Working to ensure that social-good initiatives also contribute to the positive bottom line will ensure they’re not first on the chopping block when the going gets rough. “We live in a capitalist economy, and you have a fiduciary duty to deliver for your shareholders. That’s just the reality of how the economy works — so we have to work within that [model],” Newsom Reeves said.

[Read: Diversity Leaders from WW, LinkedIn and Seattle Seahawks on Building—and Retaining—Inclusive Teams]

Know that measuring progress is key

Enterprises need to understand the leading and lagging indicators by which to measure progress toward their goals. From early awareness of a product or service to its adoption, it’s possible to set up indicators that measure social justice impact, Newsom Reeves said.

The exact key performance indicators (KPIs) will vary depending on the market the organization serves. “The metrics piece has to be highly customized to the company itself and their ability to move along that journey from awareness to impact,” Newsom Reeves said. Companies in the financial sector, for example, can use indicators that track the number of minorities issued mortgages or the service model needed to keep the underserved in their homes, as valuable metrics to measure social impact.

Overall, companies have to weave a focus on creating positive social impact into their very fabric, Newsom Reeves said. “Like a commitment to ESG and DEI, social impact is not something we do on the side of the market; it has to be embedded into all processes throughout the business,” she said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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