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ITE TIG Week: Integrating Technology into the Evaluation of Corporate Social Responsibility Initiatives by Eric Barela

Hello. I’m Eric Barela, Salesforce.org’s Director of Measurement & Evaluation. Part of my job is to evaluate elements of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) program. Corporations are increasingly being called upon to focus on what is called the Triple Bottom Line, which consists of profit, planet, and people. CSR programs are designed to encourage public good and generate social impact so a corporation can contribute to environmental sustainability and positive social impact while creating financial profit.

Traditionally, company CSR programs have taken the form of employee giving of time (volunteering) and money (donations to charities). Some companies also provide grants to community organizations promoting social impact and environmental sustainability. However, with the rise of social enterprises and impact investing, CSR has begun to look as varied as the companies trying to make a difference. In addition to the increasing number of corporations engaging in CSR, benefit corporations and impact investors are forcing evaluators to re-examine the use of technology in our work.

One of the primary ways the evolution of CSR is requiring evaluators to look differently at how we integrate technology into our work is through the use of reporting standards. Given how varied CSR looks these days, reporting standards are being introduced as a means for standardization. The Global Reporting Initiative, IRIS+, and the International Aid Transparency Initiative are three of the most commonly used reporting standards frameworks out there.

In addition to these standards frameworks, more and more corporations and social entrepreneurs are joining the movement to work toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are 17 goals aimed at creating a sustainable world by 2030 that were adopted by all 193 UN Member States in 2015. There are 169 targets and 232 indicators underpinning the global goals.

Technology is being used to report on these standards. Many companies are now using customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage their business activities. Even though this type of software’s primary use is to keep track of sales leads and opportunities, most CRM software is pretty adaptable. A “customer” can be defined in many different ways.  Corporations are starting to use CRM software to manage their CSR by keeping track of employee volunteering and giving, grant administration, product donation, and sustainability efforts. With CRM software, a “customer” doesn’t have to be defined as someone who buys something.

Companies are beginning to use CRM software to manage their social impact measurement.  Outputs and outcomes can be tracked and reported on in real time. This includes both company-specific and standardized results. Products like Amp Impact, SocialSuite, and SoPact are helping companies report on all of their desired outputs and outcomes, from the contextualized to the standardized to the SDGs!

As the face of CSR has changed, so too has the need for different technologies to be able to track social impact. CRM software is currently one of the many tools being used to advance the evaluation of corporate CSR programs.

The American Evaluation Association is celebratingIntegrating Technology into Evaluation TIG Week with our colleagues in the Integrating Technology into Evaluation Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from ITE TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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