Changing the World Through Social Impact Strategy in Business – with Laura Herman

You may not have heard the term “Social Impact Strategy,” but it is an area of specialization my guest deals with every day. Laura Herman is the managing director for FSG, a company that helps organizations find new ways to achieve results in the toughest challenges societies face. In this conversation Laura and I talked about what a social impact strategy really is, the way companies are learning to profit from products sensitively aimed at women, and how including women in supply chain actually improves the conditions and society in many developing countries. It’s a fascinating conversation I hope you’ll take the time to hear.

In it for the long term: solving social problems profitably

Naturally, companies are in business to make money. But businesses that are in it for the long term are careful not to sacrifice the well-being of the people who are their customers, or those who are integral parts of their supply chain, for the sake of temporary or short-lived profit. Laura says that more and more businesses are coming to understand how a commitment to solving social problems can be done profitably, and how that kind of commitment is what establishes them for long-term success. Hear more of this great conversation with Laura, on this episode of NextFem.

The reason a focus on women has been profound in the development community

One element of social impact strategy that is proving to be significant is the development of a clear focus on women both as part of product creation and distribution, and as consumers of end of the line products. The reason this focus has become so important is that it is statistically proven that women who are successful in their workplace or career tend to put more money they earn toward the well-being of their children and the improvement of their communities. That’s an impact that carries forward into society as a whole. It’s an exciting part of how many large businesses are touching the little people in powerful ways that Laura speaks to.

They might be big companies, but they are full of real people

When I asked Laura about the socially conscious decisions that many large businesses make, she pointed out the fact that while it may be a large business it is also full of real people. Those people have concerns about society, the people around them and within their organization, and the overall good of humanity. She believes that the stereotype of profiteering CEOs who strive for financial gain at any cost is an old, tired image that needs to be retired. You can hear how Laura’s experience has given her a strong opinion about this issue, on this episode.

Ask for what you want, unapologetically

Whenever I talk with a woman who is as successful as Laura Herman, and especially one who has stayed long-term in only a handful of positions throughout her career, I want to know how she does it. She’s climbed the career ladder, gotten married, has 3 children, and is very happy with her life. In this conversation, we got into the details of how she has taken time off for maternity leave and other reasons, and how she negotiated those situations with her employers. Her advice: “Ask for what you want unapologetically. the company is not doing you a favor by helping you live a healthy life, you are doing them a favor by bringing your skills and talents to their team.” That’s Laura. Get to know her on this episode.

Episode Highlights

  • 2:10 – How Laura came to be involved in social work and business
  • 5:18 – Where did Laura’s interest in poverty and economic issues come from?
  • 6:25 – What does it mean to be a Social Impact Advisor?
  • 9:18 – Why is it important for corporations to have a social impact strategy?
  • 12:45 – In it for the long term: solving social problems profitably
  • 15:18 – Profitable product opportunities directed to the needs of women
  • 19:41 – What role do women play in supply chain innovation and why is it important?
  • 32:38 – Laura’s experience working with big companies: they are full of real people
  • 35:50 – The turning point: Marriage from a blind date
  • 39:45 – Advice for managing the commitments that exist in women’s lives these days

Resources Mentioned

1. Favorite book for women?

2. Favorite self-care hack?

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “Live is a marathon, not a sprint.”

4. Female CEO or thought leader you’re into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your 5 years younger self?

  • “It’s never necessarily to late to think about all the things you want in life and how to bring them all together.”

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