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Impact Assessments: Looking for a Template?

Richard Hardyment

Apparently lots of people are searching the internet for a template for impact assessments. I know this because Google told me. But is a template for impact really sensible?

If you go onto Google – or Bing, or Yahoo for that matter – and type in the words “impact assessment”, the next word that is helpfully suggested is “template”. This means that hundreds – perhaps thousands, who knows, tens of thousands? – of people are searching for a quick-fix solution to their impact needs.

At Corporate Citizenship, we’ve been helping companies to measure their footprints since 1997. If there’s one simple summary from all this work it would be this: every project is different.  For this reason, a template really isn’t a sensible idea. Why? Because impact is so wide ranging. Even the word means different things to an environmental executive, a community investment professional or a brand manager.

There are three reasons why a template can’t solve everyone’s impact challenges. Firstly, there’s the scope of the issues. These come in all shapes and sizes. Are we talking just about community impacts, or the entire social, economic and environmental spread from biodiversity to human rights to taxes? Which issues really matter most to the business and its stakeholders?

Next, there’s the perennial problem of the value chain: where do you draw a line? One of the biggest trends in responsible business is for companies to look beyond their own operations to consider the supply chain as well as customers and consumers. Impact studies vary from focusing in on specific parts of the business to sweeping, wide assessments of the entire value chain.

Finally, there’s the scale question. Are we talking one project last year or multi-country over the last decade? These three variables create monumentally different types of impact study.

You can find out more about the real value of impact assessments in our report: Impact for Change: Better Business in a Better World. Although we set out the steps that any organisation can follow to measure and take action on impact, there is no template. Every situation really is unique. Anyone finding a template online should be very careful. Before jumping in, first ask: what am I really trying to measure and why?

Richard Hardyment is Head of Research and an Associate Director at Corporate Citizenship.

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