Big Ideas Marketing Strategy

Why Creating an Ecosystem of Good is Good for Business

Colorful balloons floating across a pale blue sky.

By Andres Zapata \ May 11, 2018

When your company becomes inspired to make a positive impact on the world, that inspiration will have a positive impact on your company.

If this sounds doe-eyed or naïve, you haven’t been keeping up with the literature. Venture capitalists are encouraging companies to keep a second bottom line tracking social impact. And consumers have learned to expect it. According to Edelman, 87% of global consumers believe businesses should place equal weight on both societal issues and business issues.

It’s not a trend. This is the new face of business. Whether you’ll go as far as adopting a second bottom line or not, there are steps you can take to immediately start building an ecosystem of good at your company, and to begin reaping the returns.

Good work works for everyone

From employees to leadership to clients and consumers, striving to improve the world creates a positive feedback loop that benefits all parties involved. Here’s how:

It starts with leadership making a commitment to doing impactful work for cause driven companies, or at the very least cause driven work for companies of any kind.

The results are immediate. A feeling of positive impact keeps you engaged in the work, even on the bad days. Everyone at the company will feel it. People want to make a difference, and they want to know that their work matters – really, tangibly matters. They’ll feel more fulfilled and will do better work as a result.

And that‘s more than speculation. There have been studies on the physiology of the brain where scientists use Functional MRIs to see what parts of the brain are activated through different stimuli and emotions. They’ve seen that positive thinking and optimism rouses the parts of the brain used for creativity and productivity, while negative thoughts encourage the bits that work against us.

It seems like common sense, and yet companies everywhere are failing to take advantage of these benefits by not cultivating an ecosystem of good for their workplace. They are entrenched in the old modes of business, still reckoning with the relics of the industrial revolution. They prioritize the punch-card and think that the amount worked by employees correlates with quality, while contemporary business leaders have begun measuring with additional yardsticks.

Good as part of the infrastructure

Give people the cognitive and emotional freedom to believe that where they work is a vehicle for meaning, and they’ll be more present when they truly need to be.

Salesforce does this to great success. Its charity arm, Salesforce.org is based on a simple idea: Leverage one percent of Salesforce’s technology, people, and resources to help give back. They call this integrated philanthropic approach the 1-1-1 model.

The model is truly part of the workplace culture. On an employee’s first day at the company, 1-1-1 is the pinnacle of the orientation. Employees are encouraged to volunteer on day one in the office highlighting Salesforce’s commitment to charity work.

A longer run

At my company, idfive, we differentiate ourselves with an unwavering commitment to metrics. We are scholars of rigorously informed decisions, and we’ve seen dramatic increases in our own KPIs based on how connected our employees are to the work they are doing. We would not be extoling the “doing good for good companies” approach otherwise. Every day, we practice what we preach, striving to create an ecosystem of good for our employees, with the knowledge that it will resonate across everything we do. There are big and small everyday gestures that add up to support a comprehensive strategy of good. Little things like pushing people out the door at 5 PM so they can “shut it down” and play with their families, or brownbag lunches where everyone is invited to think and concept on behalf of a client whose budgets can’t support 40 or more strategist, designers, anthropologist, developers, writers, illustrators, marketers, and so on working together to crack big challenges. There are also big things that we do such as coordinating a company-wide Day of Giving or hiring people who are not “paycheck” chasers and are mission-driven to begin with. And then we feed their inherent need to do good with meaningful work. Our business development team works hard to vet clients and projects upfront so that we don’t end up doing work on something we can’t get excited about.

The relationships we build with clients around our shared understanding of social impact and general welfare are strong, and our client retention proves it. 80% of our clients have been with idfive for more than 5 years, and many have been with us for more than 10 years, which is unheard of in the agency world. It is because we understand that the work employees are doing is directly connected to the kind of company we are, and who we decide to work with. That interconnectedness is the ecosystem – good begetting good, begetting good.

Andres Zapata
Executive Vice President of Strategy, Co-founder
Andres Zapata
Executive Vice President of Strategy, Co-founder

Andres isn’t like most EVPs or co-founders. He’s responsible for the operations and direction of idfive, but he’s also the door-always-open, huevos-rancheros-making leader who’ll help you when the wifi isn’t working. A lifetime learner and multifaceted professional, Andres has more than 20 years of experience leading projects for clients in various industries. He believes in the power of research and data to create something beautiful that can do something good.