PULSE: Social Impact Trailblazers Share Successes and Challenges 

Social Impact Trailblazers Share Successes and Challenges 

From Sutherland and Sitel hiring refugees to Eclaro’s schools in the Philippines and Webhelp’s strategy to build a global impact model, these pioneers are committed and passionate about educating, training, recruiting, hiring and developing careers for impact workers.   

Leading social impact trailblazers who spoke at IAOP’s Center for Social Impact Meeting of the Minds have prioritized social impact goals in their missions, have been practicing it for decades and together have made a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals.

The speakers on the “Leading with the ‘S’ in ESG: Practices from Impact Sourcing Trailblazers” panel shared their inspiring stories, best practices and common obstacles. 

Webhelp started testing impact sourcing and hiring in 2000. Over the years, the company evaluated growth opportunities and whether the model could be sustainable, scaled and adopted in other countries. The BPO provider has now increased its impact sourcing hiring target to 10 to 15 percent of its workforce in all 50 countries it operates it. 

Starting with a pilot program and then increasing impact hiring over the years with a slow and conservative approach has been important to the success, said Hanae Chino, ESG Strategy Director, Webhelp. Having case studies and targets also is important, she said. 

Customer experience (CX) provider Sitel has trained more than 45,000 individuals through language proficiency programs in Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and the Philippines since 2011 and has an average hiring rate of 64 percent.

Noting that Sitel operates a “people business in the digital world,” Martin Wilkinson-Brown, CMO, said the company is working hard to break down gender bias, particularly by creating training programs and opportunities for women in technology positions.   

Over the past decade, Eclaro has expanded its Academy in the Philippines to today educating 4,200 students from preschool through 8th grade, high school, college and a school for the hearing impaired. It has added new courses for growing career paths in criminology, hospitality and accounting.

Sutherland has long had a significant social impact mission of positively impacting one life or family for every person it employs. Senior Vice President Dan Lang said the company has contributed to creating a middle class in many communities over the years. 

The biggest challenge, he said, is consistency in reporting and the lack of common terminology across industries and geographies.  With the changing labor dynamics today, almost every employee it hires has some situation that applies as being an impact worker, according to Lang.  
“ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are two dirty words in my company because they take on a life of their own,” he said. “We have the environmental piece locked down and can measure it.  But social reporting is difficult.” 

Webhelp’s Chino agreed that the varying definitions by country make reporting hard and that having standards would solve issues of documenting the numbers of impact workers and also help with recruiting through NGOs. 

Wilkinson-Brown said it’s important that organizations are aware of what constitutes impact sourcing because many companies are practicing it without realizing it.  

“Tracking whether a hire is an impact sourcing worker is challenging,” he said. “We need to get organizations in the habit of tracking so we can talk more about how impact sourcing helps achieve business objectives.”

Despite the compelling evidence that ‘doing well by doing good’ makes strong business sense, IAOP CEO Debi Hamill asked the group of leaders their thoughts on why the momentum has not increased faster than originally envisioned.

Eclaro’s Senior Vice President of Marketing Eric Feil said the leaders in the room have to explain impact sourcing so people in all industries understand its benefits and that it’s not just a buzzword. Impact sourcing’s value in retaining a loyal, motivated workforce is a story that needs to be told. 

“We have to be social impact evangelists,” he said. 

Todd Jensen, Founder, Jensen Insight and formerly with the World Bank and Ancestry, who moderated the panel, defined the real problem as “soulless buyers.”

“Labor arbitrage was used for years but this type of work is now going to RPA (Robotic Processing Automation),” Jensen said. “We need different capabilities and combinations of talent. We need thinking, functioning individuals who are a rich well of talent for this new type of work. Impact sourcing can make a difference to buyers who have a soul and care about the evolving marketplace.” 

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