End of year feels like a great time for celebration – and the perfect time to walk down memory lane. Our team took a deep dive into our content for the year to determine the top ten, most popular blog posts of the last year. We learned that many of you are interested in the evolution of ESG (watch in January for our upcoming Profit & Purpose Addendum!), how we can be authentic community allies and how to build effective partnerships. Scroll the list below to see our version of a Wrapped list – then let us know what you want to learn more about in 2023!

1. ESG & The Rise of the External ‘S’

ESG – does anyone else feel like these initials are suddenly everywhere? What was largely an initialism to be found in business journals and corporate impact reports just a year ago, is now a concept on op-ed pages in some of the country’s most prominent publications – and something your uncle might bring up during a lull in the conversation at Sunday dinner.

We believe that activating the people power of a company – the very customers, employees and shareholders that are driving the ESG shift to begin with – is a big part of how companies will be evaluated in the future. Transactional social impact activities are shifting to more meaningful and strategic expressions of commitment to causes. Read this blog by Next Stage CEO Josh Jacobson to better understand the evolution of ESG – and why we believe that the ‘Social’ expression is the next frontier of corporate impact.

2.ESG 101: What does ESG mean for business?

ESG is everywhere right now – but what does it all mean? In this Backstage with Next Stage conversation Candice, Janet and Josh break down the ESG basics, why every company should pay attention to their impact strategy and one way any business can get started. Wading into the ESG waters can feel overwhelming, but whether you’re an ESG novice or someone thinking about impact all day long – we think there is something in this conversation for everyone!

3. What Nonprofits Really Want for the Holidays (and all the days)

Billions (billions!) of dollars were given away to nonprofits this year for Giving Tuesday, on what has become known as the most generous day of the year. We hope that our many nonprofit friends were the recipients of extra-generous donations  – and that those dollars empower you to make an even bigger impact over the coming weeks and months! During the holiday season many businesses and families open our wallets and calendars to make sure that impact-focused organizations have everything they need. This piece breaks down what nonprofits want the most for the holidays – along with a few things they don’t.

4. What’s NextRoundup: How These Partnerships are Fueling Community Change

What’s Next? is a series of roundtable discussions, dedicated to exploring the intersection of social good. We explore all the ways that companies and nonprofits are building innovative partnerships and fueling community change. At the conclusion of Season Two we gathered up all the episodes in one easy-to-find post! This season included impact movers and shakers such as Ally, Goodwill, Alliance Health, Duke Energy and more.

5. Halloween Hangover: The Scary Realities of the Workforce Shortage

The looming workforce shortage crisis that threatens to disrupt, well, just about everything.  Against the backdrop of low birth rates and retiring Baby Boomers, capitalism is on shaky ground. Interventions are needed, and fast!

In this blog post, Josh shares his learnings from recent exploration of talent shortfalls in multiple sectors, including the role of economic mobility and increased immigration can play to address it. It is a topic that will ultimately impact everyone. Whether you work for a private sector company, a nonprofit or a municipality, you will want to tune in for this one.

6. How Can Companies Authentically Observe Celebrations?

In our Profit & Purpose report, we talk a lot about the changing expectations of consumers and how newer forms of media have shifted brand communication from a one-way channel to a bi-directional conversation – and how this becomes even more important when you’re engaging in cause-driven branding.

This tension was on full display this summer as Walmart rolled out – then retracted – a trademarked Juneteenth ice cream flavor. When a customer snapped a photo of the product, it quickly went viral for all the wrong reasons. Criticism centered on what customers perceived as an inauthentic celebration of the holiday, lack of previous engagement and profit-driven approach. Read this blog post to learn ways that your company and or organization can observe celebrations authentically and respectfully.

7. The Social Determinants of… Everything

Why are things the way they are? This simple question inspires an essay by Josh Jacobson, our firm CEO. In it he explores the concept of ‘social determinants’ – the underlying factors that influence a person’s life. The World Health Organization defines them as “the environment in which people are born, grow, live, learn, work, play, worship and age.”

If you are familiar with the term, it is likely through its connection to health. One of the oft-quoted statistics is that activities inside a clinical setting, like at a doctor’s office or hospital, only account for 20% of one’s health outcomes. Fully 80% of what influences a person’s health are factors unrelated to receiving medical care – things like food access, housing, education and environmental factors.

But is this only a way to understand what influences health? Or can the concepts be applied elsewhere? Josh tackles this and more, including the importance of language, opportunities to leverage our newfound empathy and a call to action in service to evolving our current systems.

8. The Other F-Word: Focus

We’ve all been there. You have a big project, a looming deadline or a brilliant idea that you just want to spend time getting on paper, but as soon as you sit down to concentrate, something happens. Maybe your emails went wild, a team member had an urgent question or the dog kept begging to go outside – and just like that your focus is gone. It’s a challenge that we all face, especially for leaders with lots of projects on your plate. How do you keep the trains running while also maintaining visionary leadership? In this blog, Haley Rafferty, Next Stage’s Team Success Manager, explores the idea of focus and how we can all make it work for us.

9. CSR vs. ESG: The Evolving World of Corporate Social Impact

In the fall of 2021, Next Stage launched its Social Impact for Business service line – an opportunity for companies to engage Next Stage to assist in the exploration of the concepts outlined in Profit & Purpose. We inked our first contracts soon after and have been mapping applied learnings, broadening our understanding and refining our services.

More than anything, we now understand better than ever what a “Wild West” this trend line has become, with companies and nonprofits alike now publicly acknowledging the shifting ground upon which they stand but expressing uncertainty with how best to proceed. It is clear much has changed but what is it changing into? This is the question we aim to continue unpacking on behalf of the Charlotte community and beyond.

In this blog post Josh explains the difference between CSR and ESG, plus how the world of corporate social impact is evolving.

10.The Path Ahead for Next Stage

With the late summer additions to the Next Stage team, we fielded some questions from our friends and colleagues. What would all these changes mean for our business? How would they impact our work with nonprofits and businesses? Do we plan to grow more? In this post, Josh unpacked a bit more of our journey and plans for the future. We know those are a bunch of uncommon words and phrases. Read the blog post to learn more.