INSIGHTS

How can art enhance business positive impact?

INSIGHTS
by Anna Grochowska

Sztuka jako wektor pozytywnego wpływu biznesu (🇬🇧)

The need for “business positive impact” has never been stronger. In this article, we explore art as a means for the sustainability efforts made by enterprises. In brief:

  • As the interest in sustainability grows, companies are searching for new measures to create positive impact in environmental, social and governance areas
  • Enterprises engaged in activities with great social impact experience from investors the highest interest
  • Business collaboration with the arts is becoming increasingly present and can deliver important value in sustainability ventures

In search of business positive impact

The acceleration of corporate social responsibility (CSR) has never been stronger. In the past few years, corporate leaders have been increasingly focused on this approach and aware of their impact on humanity. The environmental, social and governance rules are experiencing historically high interest worldwide. The emerging taxonomies and regulations in Europe also point out social and environmental issues as irreversibly linked together. Enterprises who embrace this approach can have compelling business positive impact.

A study published by the European Capital Markets Institute has found that companies integrating an ESG approach are recognized to be more resilient in times of crisis. The emergencies of the past few years, including climate change, the armed conflicts and the covid pandemic, have further underlined the strong need for business to consider the sustainability issues. In a recent report linked to the ongoing CSRD directive preparation, an analyst of the European Committee highlights that “the pandemic and the health crisis now ravaging all continents has put the spotlight on vulnerabilities and our dependence on the natural environment. It drives home the message that markets do not operate in isolation, but instead are embedded in societies and the natural environment. This realization will fundamentally change our long-term risk perspective and the way we prepare for the looming climate crisis.”

The regulations across the world follow the trend. Sustainability and financial reporting are about to be placed on an equal footing in Europe.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”, said the famous Henry Ford. Decades after, we see that saying in action, when companies are looking for new ways and methods to build their business positive impact. Implementation of sustainability strategies can allow entreprises to carry out more efficiently their operations and comply with the expectations of stakeholders and regulators.

Increasingly important social impact

While the measurement of environmental factors of business enters the mainstream approach, international strategy advisors such as Ernst and Young point out that the social factors in sustainability are likely to become increasingly important. Some studies already report that 71% of individual investors want to integrate a positive social impact into their investment objectives.

The social and societal dimension of enterprise activities is often seen as an area more challenging to describe, because its outcomes are not as easy to quantify. Indeed, many characteristics (personnel skills, tacit knowledge, corporate culture and values, business reputation, trust and quality of relations) are playing an essential role in corporate success, and yet can prove difficult to nail down in numbers.

However, the quantification challenge does not make those factors any less critical in building long lasting value and business positive impact. Many methods have been already developed around the subject, such as the WICI Reporting Framework, which introduces the definition of intangibles. In this regard, the WICI approach distinguishes the categories of human, relational and organization capitals.

  • businesses are fueled by their human capital and pursue many efforts in this area by improving the knowledge, skills and well-being of people working in a company. This also includes focusing on the employees’ talent, charisma, leadership capacities, humanity, empathy or resilience. In short, the business positive impact is often achieved by creating a great place to work in, and helping employees to build their passion, purpose and meaning of their job.
  • companies also improve their efficiency by stepping up the organizational capacities of the organization. This reflects creating business approaches and processes that will leverage the enterprise skills. This field, comparable to the governance aspect of ESG, relies on implementing new procedures and information systems, and it often includes embedding in the organization a new systematic ways to foster innovation, out of the box-thinking and the problem-solving capacity of its team.
  • organizations thrive in the supportive business environment. Good connection of the company to its eco-system is essential and often referred to as a relational or social capital of the enterprise. Enterprises focused on that field cultivate trusting and long-lasting relations with their communities and stakeholders. Whether it comes to partners, customers, suppliers, or local communities, they often work towards creating positive impact through volunteering, education and social good campaigns.

The intangible assets are strongly linked to creating value in organization and business positive impact. They are also crucial to ensure a cohesion of the enterprise and its environment. Because of their importance, there’s an emerging need for measures to impact the social areas connected to the enterprise’s activity. This search drives new trends which are are emerging to help in achieving this goal.

business positive impact
Photo by cottonbro; modifications Vadviam

Art as a vector in sustainability approach

In Vadviam, we see art as a viable measure of supporting the enterprise pursuits towards sustainability. This special field can integrate all the distinct areas of sustainable development and actively contribute to human, social, economic and environmental aspects of the projects.

Art for centuries has been specialized in the means of communicating, fostering the new knowledge, enhancing relationships, engaging communities and addressing social issues. As a medium that conveys the ideas in ways that often reach beyond intellectual measures, the artistic works are known to create emotional connections with their audience. Because of this unique capacities of art, recent years have shown increased number of projects which involve this theme and strongly contribute to the business positive impact.

Example: the “Industrious” project of Holcim

At its 100-years anniversary, Holcim, one of the world’s leading suppliers of cement and aggregates, have decided to carry out an artistic exploration of their group’s activity. The company commissioned internationally recognized photographers, Marco Grob, David Hiepler and Fritz Brunier, to create photographic portraits of their employees and production sites. The result was an impressive photography collection known as the “Industrious” project, published in the form of a book and showcased in the exhibition of Museum of Fine Arts in Bern, Switzerland. The project became a beautiful example of art and enterprise collaboration that celebrates the business and humane aspect of Holcim activity, putting an accent of promoting diversity of cultures in the workplace, encourages understanding of business and dialogue of employees’ families, neighborhood and local communities. It generated important value for the human, social and relational capital of the business, and emphasized its sustainability vocation.

The initiatives connecting business with art can take place even in a very industrial context. Besides innovative approach, such collaboration can help to develop a communication and publicity value that is often surpassing the traditional methods.

Example: the “SIIROM” project of FRESE A/S

The Danish company Frese Metal- & Stålstøberi, business operating in metal industry, has been reconsidering their narrative and communication. After trying traditional advertising methods, the enterprise decided to throw a bridge between their highly technical activity and the world of art, entering a partnership with the Danish Development Center for Performing Arts. Through this collaboration, among many new approaches, a new motto was developed to illustrate the customer-focused culture of the business: “Frese Metal – Human Alloy”. The project became a great representation of added value that artistic approach can bring to enterprise sustainability efforts, by stepping up their relational capital, trust towards the brand and business positive impact.

The art approach in business becomes an emerging trend among large corporations and governments as well. We see that many international companies see culture and humanities as an important pillar of their sustainability strategy. A great example of this can be found in activities of EDF or Iberdrola, both multinational electric utilities, which through their corporate foundations systematically support the artistic endeavors. Such initiatives also gather a lot of interest at the governmental level: STARTS, initiative of European commission, is a program that fosters the ongoing dialogue between science, technology and the arts and animating activities, where artists bring in new, inquisitive and challenging perspectives on art-driven innovation.

Value added via added meaning

By bringing into play a thorough understanding of technical matters and a vivid passion for the arts and humanities, Vadviam aids its customers to deploy sustainable solutions, highlight the environmental and societal impact of their projects, and endow with greater meaning and significance the range of products they offer. Our company name, Vadviam, stands for “Value added via added meaning”.

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