• by Bella Vuillermoz, Director, Bigger Picture at BSkyB
  • Jul 01, 2013

Does investing in social value also drive company value? In short, yes. Or, duh… of course it does. That is, if you take a long term view. It’s true that if you’re just out to make a quick buck you can, probably, just be good for yourself, maximising short term profit. But you won’t last long.

If you’re looking to create value for the long term, you naturally look beyond next quarter’s bottom line and begin to consider what the drivers for that long term value might be. You might start with your people, making sure that they are equipped and motivated to support your objectives over time. You might turn to your customers, ensuring that they have good reason to keep coming back and rewarding you with their business. You may look to your supply base, creating strong partnerships that deliver for both sides. You may think about the community in which you work and create positive relationships there that further strengthen your ability to do business.

Of course, you need to do all these things to create sustainable value. And you need to balance those long term considerations with short term delivery. Indeed, it is today’s commercial success that ensures companies can afford to build value over the long term.

At Sky, we know that simply being good for Sky is not enough. To achieve sustainable success, we must also be good for our customers, our people, our partners and the communities in which we live and work. It’s all part of our ethos of Believe in Better. It’s about doing business better and is the bedrock to our success. We call it Seeing the Bigger Picture

We’ve always generated business success through the creation of societal value. We have a strong belief that the billions we’ve invested in television – great programmes and new ways to watch them – enriches people’s lives, by informing, inspiring and opening them up to new ideas and new worlds. Through our investment in broadband and home telephone, we’ve helped millions of people connect to each other for less.

But it’s not just the ‘what’, of course. The ‘how’ is just as important. So we look to make our content and services accessible to all, with strong levels of commitment to audio description and subtitling for example; to make our company and content more diverse, on screen and off; to ensure parents can keep their children safe online and manage what they watch on TV; to source responsibly; and to constantly push ourselves to make our business more environmentally sustainable. All of this work aims to further increase our societal value, and therefore make Sky more valuable to society. It is not separate to our commercial aims, it is embedded within them.

But, as a broadcaster in over 10 million homes, we also have an opportunity to reach beyond our business. We’ve chosen to do that in areas where we believe we can generate the most societal value, leveraging our business assets and expertise. One such area is sport.

The billions we’ve invested in sport since we launched has exploded the breadth, depth and quality of sport programming that a viewer can enjoy. It has also indirectly supported the development of elite sport, improvements in sporting infrastructure and support of the grassroots.

We want to push our value to sport and through sport further. Our partnership with British Cycling, which started in 2008, set out to create the first ever British winner to the Tour de France and to get one million more people to cycle regularly through our Sky Ride activities. We achieved that last year, in advance of our five year deadline.

We are now in the tenth year of Sky Sports Living for Sport, our partnership with the Youth Sports Trust. The initiative sees a team of 75 sports stars going into schools to work with teachers and groups of up to 20 young people. The aim isn’t to create the next generation of Olympic medal winners. We want to help the students gain the life skills and confidence they need to participate fully in a changing world, whatever they choose to do in life. This year, around 30,000 young people have taken part in a third of UK secondary schools and we’ve just launched the scheme in Ireland.

Both of these endeavours use measurement and evaluation, not just to help us monitor our input, but crucially to help gauge our impact. In cycling, we look to understand not just how many people are taking part in our events, but how many then go on to cycle regularly after that. We’ve also worked with the London School of Economics to understand the wider economic and social benefits that our partnership has brought to the UK. With Sky Sports Living for Sport, we not only look to gain significant reach in terms of the number of young people who engage with the scheme, but also depth of impact on those individuals and their schools. So we work with Chrysalis Research to get a detailed understanding of this through evaluation with the students and their teachers.

This research helps to give us confidence that we are investing our resources in the most effective place; to refine and evolve our approach; and to tell others about the impact of what we do. We combine our social research with a quarterly consumer tracker, which asks the views of 2,000 consumers so that we can understand how our customers and prospects feel about what we’re doing and whether they feel more favourable to the brand as a result. This is crucial to a company focused on long term value creation: real and measurable social impact, combined with real and measurable benefit back to the brand.

Beyond honing our understanding of the impact of our social value initiatives, we’re also interested in further understanding the value of our broader business. We started this work looking at the Economic Impact of Sky on the UK last year, and are now considering whether we can and should look to do the same for the social impact of our business. So far, we’ve come to the grand conclusion that it’s anything but straightforward.

We’re keen to hear more about what other businesses are thinking and doing in the area of social value, so I’m looking forward to the Green Mondays discussion on 8 July - hope to see you there.


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