Why Social Impact and Business Impact Go Hand in Hand

WRITTEN BY: Jörgen Sundberg

The landscape of what matters to employees has changed. Prospective employees don’t just want to know if your organization is a good place to work, but also whether or not you’re doing good in the world. Social impact has become a measuring stick for your employer brand, and top talent is taking notice.

At Link Humans, we use CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) as one of our 16 key employer branding attributes that make up our Employer Brand Index. Investors talk about ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) as a framework for assessing how a business changes the world for good.

For Olivia Khalili, VP of Global Social Impact and Philanthropy at PagerDuty, the real goal should be social impact: “What is the impact you are having on the world around you? How do you drive societal benefit through business operations and business activities?”

You don’t do it to satisfy investors and you don’t do it to avoid fines—it’s impact-driven and values-driven because it actually matters. Khalili points to Ben & Jerry’s as an example of this kind of work. Their values guide who they hire, how they source ingredients and have even led to advocacy efforts supporting key pieces of legislation.

Activating Employees as Change-Makers

In order to be effective, social impact programs need investment from employees at all levels within the organization. Says Khalili, “We think about how do we activate employees as change-makers? How do we empower them to take action?”

PagerDuty makes a concerted effort to show how much they value volunteerism from day one by offering new employees a chance to volunteer within their first month at the company. These opportunities also serve to introduce them to core nonprofit partners, connect them with other employees, and experience the ethos and culture of volunteering at PagerDuty.

“If you want to come work for PagerDuty, it’s going to be a little bit of a different place,” Khalili says. “There’s going to be an expectation to do good in addition to performing your core roles at PagerDuty.”

How to Make Volunteering More Engaging

Throughout the year, PagerDuty hosts monthly events during which they partner with employee resource groups. There are cross-company all-hands volunteering opportunities, and volunteering is always an important part of their annual company-wide meetings. They make an extra effort to recognize employees for volunteering, providing a platform for different members of their team to share how they’ve been able to make an impact in their community, and introduce other employees to new organizations, causes, and ways to volunteer.

One thing that PagerDuty quickly identified was that people want to volunteer in a variety of ways—and not always by offering their normal job duties pro bono. “If I’m doing accounting or marketing during my day, I might not necessarily want to do that for my volunteering,” Khalili says. “I might really want to go out and read to kids, or build a house, or clean something up. So it became clear that we had to create volunteerism across the spectrum.”

Social Impact Starts at the Top

Even before they went public, PagerDuty’s CEO, Jennifer Tejada, pushed the company to commit to Pledge 1%, dedicating at least 1% of equity, 1% of employee volunteer time, and 1% of product for social good. The company offers its platform for free to nonprofits, but for employees, this means that 1% of their paid hours are devoted to volunteering or other efforts for social good. A strong commitment from leadership makes for an environment where social impact can infuse everything that they do. “It’s not enough for the CEO to make a commitment,” Khalili says, “it has to be living and breathing across the business.”

From an employer brand perspective, Khalili says that they try to think about social impact branding within their company. Their platform is about incident response and real-time action. Therefore, they try to use that framework to talk about the work they do in the community. Their volunteering program is called Volunteer Response, and their global ambassador group for local advocacy is the Community Responders.

As Khalili says, “Social impact at times can feel unstructured because you’re trying to find: what are the opportunities across the business to drive change?” For PagerDuty, that comes from driving value to their nonprofit partners through volunteering and through their platform to create more access to opportunity and equity within a community. Their employee value proposition is knowing that their work has a strong, positive impact on the world around them and they truly work for a company that stands behind its values.

To follow Olivia Khalili’s work in social impact and employer brand, connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter, or take a look at PagerDuty.org. To identify the values and culture you want to create in your company, talk to us about building your EVP.


Our newsletter is exclusively curated by our CEO, Jörgen Sundberg, for leaders who make decisions about talent. Subscribe for updates on The Employer Branding Podcast, new articles, eBooks, research and events we’re working on.


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