Why Socially Responsible Site Selection Isn’t Just About Doing Good, It’s Good for Business

by | Dec 7, 2023

In the age of social impact and sustainability, employees, customers and community members are increasingly looking to companies to demonstrate corporate responsibility and a culture that considers the needs of all stakeholders.

However, one area that is often ignored when it comes to conscientious decision-making is the geography in which these entities choose to locate their businesses.

Time, risk and money have historically been the fundamental decision-drivers businesses have used when assessing potential locations in which to build or locate their facilities. While these factors remain critical, three additional criteria have surfaced in recent years that are helping businesses make more strategic and equitable site selection decisions – access to talent, racial equity and carbon footprint.

Businesses that are located in close proximity to large and demographically diverse candidate pools stand to benefit from a larger selection of prospective employees, higher-quality talent and greater diversity.

Along with proximity to talent, ample transit access for a business requires fewer vehicles on the road and shorter commute times, which means lower carbon-based emissions and a higher likelihood of employee satisfaction.

Collectively, these benefits add up to more than just a feel-good story for businesses share, they provide a tangible ROI.

As detailed in the Fund’s 2021 Where Matters report, the majority of business leaders and investment professionals say that operating in alignment with environmental, social and governance standards create value over both the short term and long term.

A significant part of this value is derived from employees’ preferences to align with businesses that consider their needs and reflect their identities.

The issue with the standard model of site selection is that questions on workforce demographics and accessibility have traditionally been secondary considerations, asked after a site has already been selected, or unasked altogether.

Yet, with labor availability as the No. 1 concern for many businesses, neglecting these factors at the outset often leads to diminished talent pools and longer commute times for employees—the latter s forcing would-be candidates to opt out of the talent pool altogether. Too often have these business costs been ignored, transferred to workers or simply unidentified by businesses.

The Fund launched our Where Matters site selection tool to change that. Where Matters empowers businesses, economic developers, government leaders and planners to compare prospective development sites across more than 380 U.S. metro areas on criteria such as labor pool demographics, commute costs, emissions and transit access. The tool provides a composite score for up to five sites based on these criteria to help site selectors easily compare locations by their social and environmental impacts.

By considering these factors upfront, site selectors can be more strategic in choosing locations that meet the needs of their workforce today while enabling the business and the community to reach their full potential.

To explore this new, open-source tool from the Fund for Our Economic Future, visit wherematters.us.


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