Social Return on Investment (SROI)

In the past, enterprises participated in public welfare activity and focused merely on the investment of resources. They omitted the effects or impacts that the charity or CSR projects might bring to the caring ones. Was the expected effect achieved? This ignorance prevented enterprises from evaluating the actual effects and outcomes of an activity, thus they were unable to quantify the information and help optimize the effects and outcomes of their actions.

In order to solve the problem of focusing on very qualitative and subjective regarding sustainable information, in 2016-2017, we took the lead in adopting the Social Return On Investment methodology to evaluate our strategic community investment - Refurbished Computer and Digital Training Program. The concept of SROI is similar to the concept and practice of investment in current financial accounting. Through the unified measurement method and the reporting principles, non-profit activities can also generate information on performance measurement with decision-making and management values.

ASUS has been investing in the "Refurbished Computer and Digital Training Program" since 2008. The recycle information communications products are refurbished and are donated to the non-profit organizations, and thus establishing a "Sound Material-cycle Society". In order to measure the performance of the program, according to the calculation process and principle in the SROI guide (2009) revised in 2012 by Office of the Third Sector, Cabinet Office, UK, ASUS used a 6-step model to determine the Theory of Change in input, output and result, where currency was used as the measuring unit. The final analysis of the social return on investment of the program showed that each dollar invested generated a social value of 3.61 NTD.

In 2017, the "ASUS Social Return on Investment Report of Refurbished Computer and Digital Training Program" was certified by Social Value International, making it the first Asian technology-based corporation and the first in Taiwan to receive such international certification.

In the SROI project, we can understand not only the social value created by the program but also identify the management that still need Improvement in the evaluation process, thereby expanding the social influence. Therefore, we continue to develop digital teaching materials so that the recycled computers are no longer just a “donation” but also an intermediate that helps the recipients and users to master digital skills taught by volunteers and cooperative organizations—thus enhancing their social influences. In 2019, when we did an evaluation on the influence of the program, the SROI increased from 3.61:1 in 2016 to 5.7:1.

After establishing a model for SROI, ASUS extended the scope on measuring the effectiveness of the CSR activities, hoping to create greater social value through the planning and managing of public welfare. Therefore, in 2017, we evaluated a program that ASUS had been working on for years: the Growth and Training Program of "Children Are Us." We used the SROI guidelines to further analyze whether the program exerted the desired influence and review the relevance of the social services we have been providing to them, hoping the collaboration among the three parties will be more efficient.

ASUS has always been looking out for the disadvantaged minorities. On top of ongoing efforts to reduce the digital divide through training and education, ASUS also provides monetary support to organizations that seek to provide support for disadvantaged minorities. Through the collaboration with Children Are Us Foundation, since 2008, ASUS has hired 9 mentally handicapped young adults as our full-time employees. We also offer them a booth in the employee cafeteria where they can sell their baked goods and make drinks. All revenue generated by the booth is donated in full to the Children Are Us Bakery to nurture more young adults as well as to teach them new skills that enabled them to become more confident in their personal and professional lives. Close collaboration among ASUS, "Children Are Us" and the Children Are Us Foundation generate intangible influence. ASUS looks forward to this model that enables these young adults to receive supports from counseling agencies, families and enterprise, and to cultivate professional skills and enhance the quality of life, establishing a complete career support system to create a win-win situation for all parties.

A SUS has hired 9 mentally handicapped young adults as our full-time employees, and the relevant stakeholders include their families, the Children Are Us Foundation, social workers, and ASUS employees. Through the interviews, we fully understood the tangible and intangible inputs and outputs of stakeholders, and gathered the most real feedback and results. According to the SROI management framework, all the important values for the stakeholders were measured, not only the economic rewards, thus the conclusions of the analysis could be more complete and objective.

Not long after starting their jobs at ASUS, the young adults became accustomed to the people. They acquired specific skills that enabled them to become more confident in their personal and professional lives. Additionally, their family members were able to assure that their loved ones had a safe and happy work environment, and the burdens on families and society were relieved. The daily operation of the bakery was managed by 2 social workers who teach them the professional skills. They set up cognitive and functional management goals for each child, including health management, standard operating procedures, emergency response, stress management and performance recognition. They also planned different marketing activities such as: one-day store manager, and salesperson interactive promotion activity that the young adults would interact with and provide discounts to the customers. A lot of activities were designed to make them feel more confident and happier during work.

We analyzed the SROI of the program and figure that each dollar invested generated a social value of 1.37 NTD. Although the Bakery had a good reputation, its influence was limited to 9 mentally handicapped young adults and their families. Even if they could not work in ASUS, there were external sheltered workshops as alternative solution. Therefore, the value was mostly derived from the salaries of sheltered workshops.

After understanding the social changes this project brought in, we immediately invested in the direction where ASUS had more influence:

  1. Physical and mental health: The physical and mental performance of the young adults worked in ASUS positions was higher than that of worked in external sheltered workshops. We could create a safer physical and psychological workplace for them, and host events to make their lives more diversified, serving as a model for other workshops.
  2. Freshly brewed coffee and tea were highly profitable. This business model could be promoted to other workshops. Although it was more difficult to learn, ASUS could help the Children Are Us Foundation to establish teaching sites and nurture the seeded coaches to expand the profit model.
  3. Operational model: The collaboration model among ASUS, "Children Are Us" and the Children Are Us Foundation could become a sample business model and be promoted to other enterprises, expanding the scope of influence in public welfare projects.

In the past, the impressions of most people on the social responsibilities of companies were limited to social goods such as charity, donations, or road and bridge construction. In recent years, more and more companies have gradually combined social activities with their own operations and expertise when promoting social responsibility. However, considering the limited resources of companies, decision-makers must consider how to effectively allocate resources and evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation.

As a leading company in Taiwan, ASUS has continued to increase its influence after the introduction of the SROI project. It is expected that such a demonstration can encourage domestic companies to communicate and grow together, so as to build a sustainable social environment.