To Social Impact Or Not To Social Impact.

Published - 24 January 2021, Sunday

Eric Baldwin, cofounder of Telunas Resorts

In spite of all the talk and hype these days about social impact businesses, I’ve been surprised at how few companies I’ve come across that have made the decision to be one.  At worse, it is perceived to be impossible and too complex.  At best, it is secondary to the main goal of most companies.  This is an article discussing our focus of running a social impact company: Telunas Resorts.  What are the actual results of having this type of a business?  Here are three realities of running a social impact company that we have discovered over the past 10 years.

Having social impact as one of our bottom lines makes our business more challenging.  Basically anything becomes more complex when you add another component or layer.  This is certainly true in business.  Most businesses have an economic bottom line.  This is understandable.  In order to survive, you need to make money.  Many add an environmental bottom line as well.  This adds an extra layer of complexity to any company.  When you add a third bottom line, social impact, the business becomes not just additionally more challenging, but exponentially more challenging.  Managing a company to turn a profit is difficult enough.  Managing a company to turn a profit while both protecting the environment and having a social impact is extremely challenging.     

Having social impact as one of our bottom lines helps our business.  Even though adding the social impact emphasis does make our work more challenging, it also helps our business tremendously.  Here are a few ways we see this: a) It builds incredibly strong community buy-in and good will.  Though the communities around Telunas were quite suspicious in the early days, we have experienced years of great relationships as a result of our desire to impact socially.  b) It protects us when we make mistakes.  We are far from perfect.  Even after 10 years we still mess up.  Because they know our heart, local communities and the local government are much more likely to respond gently and kindly when we do make mistakes. c) Our desire to have a social impact has forced us to learn much about the local culture and people.  This knowledge has translated into a huge advantage in running our company in an effective and profitable way.

Having social impact as one of our bottom lines separates us from other resorts.  There are not many resorts that have from the top-down a true focus on social impact.  We are not yet experts and we certainly desire to take our social impact much further in the future.  However, our guests sense the difference between Telunas and other resorts.  Many even mention this as a reason they desire to come back.  We host many international schools from around Asia every year.  Many of them come purely because of our social impact bottom line.  Not only do they value this focus, they also actively participate in it through programs in surrounding villages.

Though difficult and challenging, we have found that the benefits of running a social impact company certainly outweigh the challenges.  And this has been an experience I wouldn’t change for the world.

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