Upping the ante and going “all in” for a greater social impact


The spring line from women’s clothing designer Eileen Fisher is 60 percent “eco,” on their path to reaching 100 percent sustainability by 2020, going “all in.”

Similarly, the FB Heron Foundation has about 60 percent of its assets invested in mission, on the path to reaching 100 percent, going “all in.”

These women-led enterprises are audaciously setting out to prove that yes, it can be done, that businesses and investors can more than merely consider social and environmental consequences, that they can be intentional about making effective positive social and environmental impact without sacrificing return.

It’s the latest chapter in social impact, moving from siloed, one-off do-good initiatives to full scale enterprise wide way of operating.

As the FB Heron Foundation strategy begins, “the world has changed, as so must we.” It’s an acknowledgment that the Eileen Fisher Vision 2020 Statement captures too when it states: “Our vision is for an industry where human rights and sustainability are not the effect of a particular initiative, but the cause of a business well run. Where social and environmental injustices are not unfortunate outcomes but reasons to do things differently. Where excuses are ignored and action is taken.”

Eileen Fisher Vision 2020

Eileen Fisher Vision 2020

One of the tired criticisms of socially responsibly run business and impact investing has been that investors will have to accept “concessionary” returns, meaning, they won’t earn as much revenue or return on their investments when they put their social conscience first. How ironic then that a study of 2,862 mutual fund performance over the last six years shows that only two actually managed to outperform the rising market consistently over those years.

So really, why not go all in? What’s the alternative? Supporting companies – whether as an executive, customer or investor – like Subway that take a cost shortcut by baking bread with chemicals used to make foam for yoga mats or Lumber Liquidators that source and sell flooring with toxic amounts of formaldehyde?

Going “all in” doesn’t happen overnight. But it is happening and as a socially conscious millennial generation advances into leadership its ideals will only become the norm. What’s keeping you from going “all in” with your business or with your 401K?


About christengraham

President of Giving Strong, Inc. Christen advises businesses, foundations and families for how to make a greater social impact.