Social Impact For The Skeptic


By now, it feels like we’ve heard of countless brands and startups that talk about their “social impact”. So it’s only natural that discerning millennials are raising an eyebrow and digging deeper into what that actually means. Are brands authentic about positively impacting social issues? Does all of the storytelling and hype translate to actual results? 

At Beam, we’re committed to interpreting social impact in meaningful ways so we can hold ourselves to a high standard on the impact we create as an organization. 

We know that there are things you have questions about. We hear you, social impact skeptics. We don’t claim to know all the answers. But we do have a few specific ideas about what makes social impact a tangible practice rather than a throwaway catchphrase. 

I’ve heard the phrase social impact thrown around a lot, but it still seems super vague. What is social impact? 

Getting down to the real deal, we like it. For us, social impact is the effect that people have on their surrounding community and world. 

In practice, your social impact is the actions you take to affect your surroundings, whether on purpose or not. At Beam, we’re working to make sure more of those actions are taken on purpose, and that they maximize positive impact. We believe social impact is the most powerful when it's consistent, creative, and inclusive. 

Right now, our global consciousness is at an all time high. Social impact has become a priority for individuals, businesses, and governments. We’re pretty excited about that. It’s a huge opportunity to use innovation to channel those good intentions into habitual practices with positive outcomes. 

As Miranda Priestly would say, “that’s all”. 

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TL;DR Social impact is the effect one has on the surrounding community and world, and social impact initiatives are about consciously directing your individual potential to positive outcomes.

So why is Beam considered a social impact app?

Beam is a social impact app because it helps people stay connected to social issues. And when we say social issues, we mean the pressing matters currently affecting our communities. Beam allows users to make a positive impact in those areas. 

Every time you visit a Beam partner (Dig Inn, Dos Toros, Think Coffee, or Inday) part of your purchase is donated to a cause you care about. You get to choose from a list of the brand’s supported nonprofits. For example, you can choose to support refugees in NYC by donating to the International Rescue Committee when you visit Inday. Or, you can choose to support education in your local community by donating to Hudson Guild when you go to a Think Coffee. 

Over time, as you keep visiting Beam partners and keep getting brands to donate on your behalf, you’ll build up to a goal. This could be funding a textbook for a girl in Ethiopia, or replanting a tree in an area affected by deforestation.

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TL;DR At Beam, we give you the opportunity to make a positive impact on issues you care about, while you make regular purchases. 

Do brands actually care about social impact, or do they just market themselves that way because they want my money? 

We understand why you’d be skeptical of big businesses. A lot of them don’t have the best track record when it comes to social responsibility. 

But it’s possible to tell when a brand's social impact is intentional. It would be an integral part of their identity and practices. For Dig Inn, it's serving veggies grown at their own farm and taking real steps to promote sustainable food practices. For Everlane, it's organizing march meet-ups at their stores to protest the travel ban on 5 Muslim-majority countries. There’s a point where consumers can tell if a brand’s involvement in social impact issues is genuine. 

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TBH, when businesses only use social impact to attract customers, people see right through their gimmicks. But everyone doesn't have to get it right the first time. Introducing a mission based on wanting to do better is a starting point that can lead to a bigger social impact in the future. At Beam, we work with our partner brands to help them reach that stage if they aren’t there yet.

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TL;DR Incorporating social impact with business has to not be gimmicky if it’s going to work. Only when brands are genuine about social impact do they affect real change and capture consumer interest. 

How do I know that the money donated to nonprofits actually makes a difference and reaches the goal it was intended for? 

Making a donation can feel like your money is disappearing into thin air. We get that. We want to make sure that the money our partner brands donate goes as far as possible. 

We’re not serious about too many things in life, but accountability is one of them. So we take steps to ensure that the nonprofits we’re affiliated with are focused on maximizing impact. And by impact, we mean measurable benefits.

There are experts who dedicate their time to analyzing the impact of nonprofits. At Beam, we use their recommendations to choose who to work with. We use a combination of resources from Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and government and community foundations to do our research and get the full picture.

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TL;DR Turn to the experts when it comes to determining nonprofits’ effectiveness; they spend a lot of time figuring out which nonprofits produce measurable and sustained impact. 

Beam sounds great, but if only 10 cents from my purchase goes to a social cause then am I really creating an impact of any significance? 

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. - Aristotle 


The temptation to be enigmatic and pretentious by leaving that phrase there to answer this question is strong. But we’ll explain. 

It’s true that the value of 10 cents on its own is not a lot but, over time, it can lead to tangible impact. Beam is creating a grassroots movement to turn giving back into a daily habit. And we want it to spread. So even if only 5-10 cents from every transaction at a Beam brand is donated to a social cause, that translates to about 1% of each transaction. And across all transactions, that adds up to be a sizable chunk of money.

The impact of a community of people who are engaged and aware of social issues on a day-to-day basis has great potential. Beam allows people to be more connected to the issues they care about in an empowering way. This drives social impact through other activities too, like volunteering or spreading awareness through education. 

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TL;DR Monetary donations made by our partner brands add up over time, quicker than you might think. And there’s more — joining a community of people committed to social issues creates a ripple effect of impact that goes a long way. 


Viveka Hulyalkar