By Saidah Nash Carter, Head of Innovation – Africa – Thomson Reuters
Total societal impact (TSI) refers to the positive and negative economic, social, and environmental effects an organisation has in the communities where it operates. This includes, but is not limited to, the impact of its products and solutions, operations, and its corporate social responsibility initiatives. Over the last few years, TSI has gained attention, particularly from investors, as ESG data has become more readily available (and trackable) and public demands for transparency are on the rise.
Key stakeholders, including clients, employees, regulators and the media expect companies to play a role in addressing major global challenges. Many companies have joined the UN Global Compact to help address challenges such gender parity, economic inclusion and long term sustainability. Innovation and co-creation are essential in delivering on these goals. As global challenges and business problems become increasingly complex, multiple parties must come together to work on solutions. Innovation will be more important than ever in solving societal problems and collective development will lead the way. In the next decade, we will likely see the rise of social innovators as a profession. Even though I sit in in large corporate and am focused on driving business transformation, I am certainly a social innovator.
I currently lead the Thomson Reuters Innovation Lab in Cape Town, South Africa. Our goal is to utilise emerging technologies to develop smart solutions for the local economy. We work with the government, customers, startups and universities to enable lean experimentation and build solutions that will have an impact on that way that people and businesses interact. There is nothing more gratifying to me than seeing TSI in action through the products that we develop. One particular project that will have a far-reaching impact on the local market is Bankable Farmer.
By many estimates, approximately 80% of the African population is engaged in agriculture and 60% of those that make a living from it are crippled by a lack of access to financial services to grow. Many are geographically distant from banking networks and lack access to the tools and resources that would make them more bankable. Many farmers are not financially literate or literate at all. On the positive side, the rise of mobile has given previously isolated farmers access to a broader network and provided connectivity to the larger world.