Stories for Impact

This time we talked with Jaan Aps, the CEO of Stories for Impact about how to make impact measurement and reporting as common for companies as financial reporting is. Any company influences its employees, supply chain, community and natural environment it operates in. These impacts can and should be measured as well as managed. Jaan shared what is the problem they are solving, why now is the perfect time to work on it, how has the corona crisis affected the startup and what will be the future of impact measurement.

Limitless is working closely with Jaan Aps and Stories for Impact to identify the best impact Key Performance Indicators (KPI-s) and set up good measurement practices for our pipeline and portfolio companies.

                                    Stories for Impact team

What is the problem Stories for Impact is solving?

Jaan said: “I would start with a comparison. It's relatively hard to make money, but it's relatively easy to count money. All the companies who are making money have access to financial management knowhow and accounting software like SAP, Quickbooks etc.
“Every organisation is also having impacts on the environment and human beings. These can be positive or negative or usually both. If we compare the situation with financial management then the companies are lacking frameworks and tools and advice on how to approach impact measurement and management topics systematically and practically. The lack of company level tools of impact measurement is the problem that we are addressing.

How are you solving the problem?

“We are offering advice and practical help in identifying, measuring and communicating social and environmental impact as one of the first firms in the market in Estonia,” Jaan said. Our current clients include the British Council Estonia and the Ministry of Social Affairs as well as top third sector organisations like Mondo and Youth to School. We are also working with startups. We help them to build up the impact measurement systems from the very beginning so that managing their impact would be already in their DNA.
Based on our experience working with various organisations and companies, we are now building a standardized impact management tool that organisations and companies can use. The tool will help companies to identify and decide what would be the impact management KPIs and also automate the impact measurement processes. Our solution will provide reporting according to different frameworks like ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) and SDG (Sustainable Development Goals). With this idea we have also entered the biggest entrepreneurship competition in Estonia called Ajujaht and are currently among the top 30.”

Source: Stories for Impact

Why did you decide that you want to solve problems in impact measurement? Why is it important for you?

“Measuring impact is one of the preconditions to start solving social and environmental problems. We need to know what goes on, how we are progressing as our organisations develop and what we could improve in order to solve the most complicated problems. Data and science based decision making is therefore the foundation for all of that," Jaan said. Also I can see that the demand for scalable solutions starts to pick up. 15 years ago when I started, companies were just about starting to discuss if CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) makes any sense or not. Today both NGO-s and companies are already thinking about how to measure their impact and progress. This is a huge step forward," Jaan said.
"My personal connection to the impact measurement started at the end of my bachelor studies in economics. I was quite shocked to discover that classical economic models don’t take into account the environmental aspects. And so I was intrigued what can be done about it, ” he added.

What have you achieved so far?

“We have been able to work with top organizations from Estonian public sector and NGO sphere and helped them improve their processes.  For example, approximately two years ago we were consulting Tallinn city government who was piloting new programs for young people, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There were a large number of programs which were piloted during those two years. My team was involved in parallel to the implementation in order to identify the most positively impactful programs. At the end of the pilot, we made recommendations which programs shall continue and which shall not. Tallinn continued with the most impactful programs," Jaan said.
Concerning our scalable software solution we are just starting with it. We are using the same know-how we have developed so far, but now we need to design it in a completely different way and adapt it in order to build a scalable product. Right now we are talking to potential users to identify their specific needs. Prototype is hopefully ready in March!” Jaan said.

How has corona impacted your company?

“The most practical impact has been on our working methods because before it was mostly face-to-face consulting or workshops or presentations. We have moved everything online. By now we are experienced in running large workshops online. It's been professionally exciting to experiment how to modify online experience so that the same objectives and learning outcomes would still be achieved. It hasn't impacted our client base because it is diversified enough and partially consists of longer term agreements," Jaan said."Philosophically I'm very troubled about the effects of the pandemic on the societies around the globe. On the other hand, I'm also optimistic. It’s in the nature of human beings that in order to make some positive progress, we usually need something bad to happen, "Jaan said.

Tell us about your future vision for the next 5 to 10 years in the
impact measurement sector.

“I think that there will be two trends which will be fighting with each other. Firstly, impact measurement will be much more automated: we’ll be using more artificial intelligence for calculations etc. For example to calculate the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) scores for the companies. Secondly, there will be more precise impact measurement on organizational level concerning ESG indexes. I'm sure that there will be a few scandals in the next years because the current formulas are quite superficial and they can be very easily manipulated, "Jaan said.
"I would say that in 10 years there are some competing systems out there who cover approximately 40 or 50% of the market. At the same time there will still be approximately half of the companies still not using any of those tools. Progress takes time!” Jaan said.

Which are the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Stories for Impact contributes in? Which one is the most important one?

"We are helping to influence attitudes and offer solutions to make impact management part of any organisation´s DNA . So our SDG is “Innovation and infrastructure”. 
In my humble opinion, there can't be the most important SDG in our interrelated world. Achieving the SDGs must be about taking into account different needs while making sufficient progress in all of them. For example, it is fashionable to say that climate change must be top priority for the humankind. However, implementing a tunnel vision focusing on climate change mitigation would negatively impact many communities and ecosystems to provide resources (e.g., rare earth metals) for the renewables´ infrastructure. Ironically, the rise of renewables would destroy some ecosystems much quicker than climate change. So I believe in balancing different needs, and impact measurement can tell us what the right balance could be at any given moment,” concluded Jaan."

Check out Stories for Impact and their website from here.

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