Impact Report 2019


Annual Impact Report 2019

“We bring about positive

change around the world by

placing exceptional people into

meaningful roles within good


Our Purpose

“Society will be the retained

recruitment partner of choice

for responsible businesses and

purpose-driven organisations”

Our Mission


This report is our attempt to look back on the year 2019, and to update our

stakeholders on some of things we were focusing on during that period.

As a company, the most significant development of

our year was that we became a Certified B

Corporation. Certification is helping us to

address two long-term questions that have

bothered us since our inception:

1. How do we demonstrate to external

stakeholders that we genuinely ‘walk

the walk’ when it comes to issues of

responsibility and sustainability?

2. How do we bake our commitments and

our values into the very fabric of the

business, such that they will endure over

the long-term, regardless of any future

changes in our ownership or management?

B Corp Certification also elevates these annual reports that we’ve been producing on a

voluntary basis for many years into a formal legal requirement, mandated by our

Articles of Association. With that in mind, we are taking it more seriously than ever before, and

have expanded the number of topics on which we are reporting.

I would like to thank our Board and our colleagues, in particular the members of our Corporate

Responsibility Committee, for their work on pulling this all together.

Simon Lucas

Managing Director

2019’s Vital Statistics

125 assignments

84 clients

19 different


10% of our profits

donated to The

Society Foundation

23 colleagues

7 different


2 offices

23 charitable gifts

given on behalf of

placed candidates

302 hours of

colleague time


to community


17.09% mean

gender pay gap

52.8 Net

Promoter Score

Our Social Impact

We think of our social impact holistically, encompassing how we affect our

clients, our candidates, our colleagues, our suppliers, our wider community,

and the recruitment industry at large.

We see our key social impacts as:

• the quality of the appointments we

help our clients to make and the

impact those individuals subsequently

have in-post;

• the integrity with which we help

candidates to define and to attain

their career objectives;

• the way in which we look after, and

develop our colleagues;

• the extent to which our business

consumes resources, and the size of

our carbon footprint;

• the impact and longevity of our work

in the community;

• the leadership we show within the

wider recruitment industry on issues

of responsibility, ethics, sustainability,

diversity, equity, and inclusion.

We’ve sought to make tangible

improvements in each of these areas over the

past year, which the remainder of this report

hopefully illustrates. As ever though, we

believe that the most significant way in which

we contribute positively towards society is

through the appointments we help our clients

to make. The impact that those individuals

have in-post has undoubtedly been our

single most crucial driver since the

company’s conception.

Increasingly we are choosing to look at the

appointments we handle through the lens of

the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Set in 2015 by the United Nations General

Assembly, and intended to be achieved by the

year 2030, the SDGs are comprised of 17

global goals designed to be a "blueprint to

achieve a better and more sustainable future

for all".

Here’s how our work related to those goals

during 2019:


Rashmi Pillai appointed

as Executive Director

of Financial Sector

Deepening Uganda

Aread more


Avril Benoît appointed

as US Executive

Director of Medecins

Sans Frontieres

Aread more



Edward Sparrow

appointed as Chair

of the St Laurence

Education Trust

Aread more


Sophie Walker

appointed as Chief

Executive of the Young

Women’s Trust

Aread more



Francesca Lemanczyk

appointed as DFID

Business Development

Manager for WaterAid

Aread more



Martin Houghton-Brown

appointed as Chair

of the Centre for

Youth Impact

Aread more

10 reduced


Ian Maginnis appointed

as Chair of the British

Exploring Society

Aread more



Darius Khwaja

appointed as Chief

Executive of Wac Arts

Aread more

16 peace, justice

& strong


Ben Kernighan

appointed as Chief

Executive of Leap

Confronting Conflict

Aread more

17 partnerships for

the goals

Jo Ellis appointed as

Executive Director of

FRED Leadership

Aread more

Our Structure and Governance

Society is a private limited company, registered in England and Wales. We

have one wholly-owned subsidiary, ‘Society US Inc’, which is head quartered

in New York and registered in Delaware. Both companies are ultimately

overseen by a Board consisting of our Managing Director and two


The current shareholdings within Society are:













As a B Corporation, our Articles of Association contains a pre-amble on ‘Responsibility’ that states:

“The purposes of the Company are to promote the success of the Company for the benefit of its

members as a whole and, through its business and operations, to have a material positive impact

on society and the environment, taken as a whole.”

The new text goes on to define a series of ‘Stakeholder Interests’, that the Board must seek to balance

as effectively as it can, without assuming any one area should take precedence over

the others. These include:

• the likely long-term consequences of any decision;

• the interests of our employees;

• our need to foster relationships with suppliers, customers and others;

• the impact of our operations on the community and the environment;

• our desire to maintain a reputation for high standards of business conduct.

Our Values

We believe that organisations can have a positive social impact, and that

careers should have purpose and meaning. Our goal is to change the world

for the better – one appointment at a time. We’ve given a lot of thought to how

we want to do business. It boils down to five core values.


We work in genuine partnership with our clients, remaining communicative and transparent

throughout the appointment process. We’re also a close-knit team, not just a collection of

individuals. We collaborate and share expertise across sector boundaries.


We’re not ‘salesy’. We ensure that our clients meet the colleagues who will actually lead our

work for them. We hire people who are genuine and personable. We value being trustworthy

and approachable.


We treat people as people, not as a means to an end. We’re fair and straightforward in our

dealings with clients and candidates. We never ‘blag’. If we don’t know something then we’ll

admit it. We also seek to practise what we preach.


Excellent search involves effective storytelling. We listen to nuance, put bespoke research into

every project, and think outside the box when sourcing great people. We’re also continually on the

lookout for innovative ways to use technology.


We’re all about the details. We take in-depth briefings.

We follow up leads and leave no stone unturned when searching. We hold ourselves to the

highest quality standards. You can count on us to be thorough.

Our Strategy

Our business strategy is oriented around five key characteristics

we believe Society must embody in order to be successful:


We must fully occupy the purpose-driven/responsible business space in our sector. We must take

our own impact seriously, ensuring we remain values-led and make a tangible positive contribution

to the world. This will ensure our work is meaningful and give us a powerful USP.


We must continually cultivate and refresh our knowledge, networks and relationships. We must

build our brand and our credibility to ensure that we are visible to leaders and to people in

positions of influence. This will make us a desirable partner for the clients we want to work with.


We must internationalise our client portfolio, our colleague base, and our physical presence.

This will increase the reach of our positive impact, reduce our reliance on any one

geography/ economy, create career opportunities for our colleagues, and provide scope

for exciting innovations.


We must diversify into new sectors and functional areas, expanding our expertise and capability.

We must widen our track record whilst also developing clear functional or thematic areas of

strength. This will protect us from over-reliance on any one colleague or sector.


We must ensure that we have first-class systems, processes, and quality benchmarks, executed

consistently, and underpinned by high levels of productivity and accountability. We must collect and

utilise data to improve our performance. This will give us a vital competitive edge.

Business Performance

2019 was a challenging year commercially, with some significant headwinds;

not least the unrest in Hong Kong, where a large number of our Hospitality and

Leisure clients are headquartered. Ongoing Brexit-related uncertainty in the UK

also resulted in a noticeable reduction in job moves and mid-level restructures.

That was problematic, as we depend on a certain level of ‘churn’ at this stratum

of the employment market from a commercial perspective. We consequently

saw the overall volume of our work located in our country of origin shrink.

Nevertheless, we were able to achieve a meaningful increase in both the

proportion and total number of UK assignments that we were working on at

CEO or Non-Executive level, and the links made during those processes

arguably bode well for future years.

Outside the UK, our growth has been strong. The US business returned to profitability, having won

a string of big assignments right at the end of 2018, including the Executive Director of Médecins

Sans Frontières. We also handled work in Egypt, Australia, and Pakistan, and had colleagues

attending conferences as far afield as Kuala Lumpur and San Francisco.

In December’s bi-annual staff survey it was encouraging to see 100% of colleagues either agreeing

or strongly agreeing with the statement “I feel proud of working for Society”. It seems likely that this

is a direct result of the many initiatives outlined in this document. But 2019 was also a year where

we invested quite heavily again in both technology and people.

On the technology front, we have finally made the transition to SharePoint and OneDrive, giving

us an infrastructure far better suited to remote working, global offices, and allowing colleagues to

remain productive whilst on the road.

On the people front, we have hired three new senior colleagues, adding some needed ballast

and experience to the key parts of team. We have also invested in increasing our management

competencies, running all line managers in the company through a ten-week internal programme,

culminating in a team off-site day in Brixton during July that received very positive feedback.

The Society Foundation

The Society Foundation is an independent charity we helped to set up in 2014.

We fund it with an annual donation, equal to at least 10% of our profits. In

2019 it gave out five grants to organisations that help potentially vulnerable

people into paid employment.

The Society Foundation typically offers ‘microgrants’ to small or growing

organisations with a turnover of up to £500,000. The beneficiaries it seeks to

prioritise include the recently homeless or vulnerably housed, ex-offenders, and

16-24 year olds not in employment, education or training (NEETs).





Location: South West London

Grant: £1,400

CARAS (Community Action for Refugees and

Asylum Seekers) is a community outreach charity

that supports refugees and asylum seekers in South

West London. Their grant will allow them to purchase

of two laptops and the associated IT set-up. This

would enhance the digital literacy skills, and thus the

employability, of hundreds of young people in the

years to come.


Location: Wandsworth, London

Grant: £1,500

Carney’s works to improve the social mobility of

disadvantaged youths through mentoring schemes.

The grant will allow them to cover the costs of the

chief executive training course at the CASS Business

School, indirectly improving the organisation’s

strategic and programmatic delivery.


Location: East London

Grant: £1,140

Circle transforms the lives of disadvantaged

youths in East London by empowering them with

employability skills and hands-on work experience.

This grant would allow them to purchase video

cameras, SD Cards, tripods, digital monitors, and

wall brackets. This would enhance their mock

interview training programme.


Location: Dorset

Grant: £1,200

Faithworks Wessex partners with churches and

community groups in Dorset to help families in crisis

rebuild their lives. The grant will be used to purchase

carpentry and IT tools to improve their skills training

workshop capabilities.


Location: Wolverhampton

Grant: £400

Enterprise Homes supports homeless individuals

in Wolverhampton by providing accommodation

services and training in personal presentation

and employability skills. This partial grant would

contribute towards the partitioning and optimisation

of their office space, allowing them to create more

efficient training areas.

Becoming a B Corporation

In March 2019, Society was proud and excited to become

a certified B Corporation, taking our place alongside a

global community of companies that are committed to

being a force for good.

To become a B Corp, every aspect of our business had to be assessed

and audited in order to ensure that we meet rigorous standards of social

and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. We’ve

also changed our founding document – our Articles of Association – in

order to embed a legal accountability for our Board of Directors to think

holistically about Society’s impact on the wider world.

The B Corp designation was created by a global non-profit called B Lab, which began in the US but

now has a presence in 60 countries. B Lab administers the certification process for companies to

become, and to stay, B Corps. There are currently over 2,600 certified B Corporations across 150

industries, including brands such Ben and Jerry’s, Innocent, Cook, Café Direct, JoJo Maman Bébé,

Patagonia and Warby Parker.

Society’s Managing Director, Simon Lucas, commented:

“When we set up Society nearly ten years ago, our goal was to build a

different type of executive search firm – one that would hold to the highest

ethical standards, and successfully combine profit with purpose. B Corp

certification is a celebration of what we’ve achieved. We’re particularly

delighted to have been granted certification at the first attempt. However

this is also a reminder of the ways in which we can improve. We look

forward to working with, and learning from, our fellow B Corps in order

to keep enhancing Society’s impact.”

Declaring a Climate Emergency

It might sound a bit pretentious or grandiose for an executive search firm to

“declare” a climate emergency. But that’s what Society has decided we need to

do. We feel obligated to speak out and to take action.

Society is committing to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions

to ‘Net Zero’ by 2030.

We don’t have big factories to overhaul, or

complex supply chains to marshal. However,

even for us, this commitment will present

significant challenges. We will need to

reimagine certain aspects of our business

model. That is partly because we are

determined the word “Net” shouldn’t end up

doing all the heavy lifting. Companies mustn’t

fool themselves that simply offsetting their

carbon footprint can provide the whole

solution. There are only so many trees the

world can plant. Meanwhile, many of the

approaches for subtracting carbon from the

atmosphere currently remain unproven.

We feel we actually need to reduce our

footprint as well.

Here is the approach we plan to take:

• we will calculate and report our

estimated annual greenhouse gas

emissions inventory (our ‘carbon

footprint’) compliant with the

Greenhouse Gas Protocol;

• we will look at ways to minimise our use

of carbon-intensive travel, particularly

air travel;

• we will regularly review all energy

and water usage and our waste

management arrangements;

• we will support and encourage our

employees to change their individual

behaviour, including switching to

renewable energy at home, using more

public transport, cycling and walking,

reducing food waste, eating less meat and

dairy, and taking an active interest in

where their pensions are invested;

• we will try to identify ways of pursuing

shared solutions with our clients, our

suppliers and even our competitors;

• we will consider new ways to use

our purchasing power to affect

positive change.

• we will then develop a series of carbon

reduction targets/milestones and begin

reporting on them annually;


Throughout 2019, Society’s colleagues continued to volunteer their time and

expertise to a range of organisations across London and New York.

Volunteering an excellent way of recharging our batteries and contributing

to team building, but it also allows us to forge meaningful and long-lasting

partnerships with our communities. We’re pleased to have seen an increasingly

diverse range of activities undertaken recently.

In total we spent more than 350 hours volunteering during 2019. Some examples from across the

UK and US include:

• sorting clothing donations at a British Heart Foundation shop in Clacton;

• running a workshop about interview skills and techniques for young people from Hackney;

• judging an award scheme for young people aged 9-21 undertaking work experience in

leading UK engineering firms;

• preparing and serving hot meals for the elderly people in London’s Elephant and Castle area;

• facilitating workshops for young people in South London about gender norms and masculinity.

Our Company Away Day

In April, Society’s UK team spent the day at Kentish Town City Farm undertaking a collection of

manual tasks including gardening, chopping up old Christmas trees, fence building, and painting.

We also met some very playful goats!

Meanwhile, in New York, our colleagues spent the day with two organisations: first, in Brooklyn

with FABSCRAP, an organisation that recycles fabrics in New York City, and second, with The

Bowery Mission, serving hot meals to those experiencing homelessness in Manhattan.

Board Responsibilities

Society also has colleagues who are governors at schools in Essex and Hitchin and trustees of

charities in London. We are encouraging and supportive of colleagues who have long-term

voluntary commitments and board-level roles, as it’s a great way to develop inclusive and

innovative leaders within our firm.

Health and Wellbeing

In 2018, we concentrated our efforts in this area predominantly on the

challenges of mental ill health in the workplace. Encouragingly, when we

received our most recent set of results from the Britain’s Healthiest Workplace

Survey, we could see a noticeable improvement in this area. As such, for 2019,

we opted to broaden our focus, launching several new initiatives and generally

taking a more holistic perspective.

Highlights from our Health and Wellbeing programme over the past year have included:

workshops for all

colleagues on

techniques to improve

emotional resilience







4,633,150 STEPS WHILST



getting our first

colleague trained and

certified as a Mental

Health First Aider


weekly mindfulness

meditation sessions

(and a whole-company

meditation at the start

of November’s Company

Away Day, led by

a professional

mindfulness consultant)

organising our second

charity run during

the summer

using the Utrecht Work

Engagement Scale to

explore with colleagues

some of their ideas for

how we create a

workplace that

encourages the

maximum amount of

vigour, dedication

and absorption.

Personal and Professional Development

At the beginning of 2019, we held a Dragon’s Den-style consultation process

in which colleagues were invited to pitch for a particular change they’d like

to make to Society’s working arrangements and policies. We hoped some

interesting new ideas would surface which would have the effect of improving

colleague wellbeing while also boosting productivity and engagement levels.

We’ve been able to implement several of the

fantastic ideas that came out of this session

over the course of the year. One of these is a

new Personal and Professional Development

Allowance, whereby each colleague will be

given up to £250 to be spent on training or

other enrichment activities. This could be put

towards a short course, some language

learning software, a subscription to the

Headspace app, or essentially anything the

colleague in questions feels would be valuable.

It’s up to each individual to spend it how they

see fit. Although some loose form of

‘return on investment’ for the company is

expected, this is mostly about providing the

means through which colleagues can develop

new skills, achieve greater balance in their

lives, and feel more engaged in their work.

We’re excited to see how colleagues

choose to develop

themselves in 2020!

Diversity Monitoring

As a firm, Society is deeply committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. To be

clear, this isn’t about tokenism, quotas, or box-ticking. Our starting point is

simply that diversity is a good thing. It’s a source of strength. It’s something

organisations should be prepared to fight for. By drawing on the widest

possible range of experience and talents, diverse organisations are able to

make better decisions, and typically have fewer strategic blind-spots. That

makes them ultimately more stable and more successful.

We are always trying to find new ways to innovate in this space, and have begun to develop a

series of additional services that we are incorporating into our standard process.

Starting in October, we are now able to produce written reports for clients at the conclusion of our

searches, showing the aggregate profile of the candidates who applied in relation to each of the

following ten characteristics.













veteran status

criminal record

Crucially, this information is kept strictly anonymous - even from us. We collect it by asking

every candidate we interact with to complete a diversity monitoring questionnaire. You can

view an example here. And although candidates are under no obligation to comply, we are

finding that most do, partly because of our promise to donate 25p (GBP) to charity for every

complete response.

Ongoing Commitments

We believe that being a responsible business is about going on a journey

rather than reaching a destination. Every year we are looking for new ways to

improve, but we also try to hold on to what we’ve put in place already. Here’s a

summary of our journey to date:

Purpose and

mission defined


entitlement for

all colleagues

Charitable gifts

for all placed




volunteering days

Weekly ‘TED

Time’ sessions

for all colleagues




National sponsor of

Give & Gain Day for

two years

Five company

values codified




Fun Officer

roles created


interests codified


impacts codified




Payroll Giving


Prompt Payment

Code signed

Voluntary Code of

Conduct signed




status attained

Flexible Hours

Policy introduced

Personal bins





Free fruit

in the office

Cycle to

Work scheme

Careers at Society

framework codified

Working Forward

Pledge signed


Strategy Community Marketplace Workplace

and Wellbeing


Ongoing Commitments

We believe that being a responsible business is about going on a journey

rather than reaching a destination. Every year we are looking for new ways to

improve, but we also try to hold on to what we’ve put in place already. Here’s a

summary of our journey to date:

Accredited Living

Wage Employer

4pm stretches


50 training

sessions codified

Health and

Wellbeing Officer

role created


BBQ yoga


Time to Change

pledge signed

Dogs allowed

in the office

GDPR and



Wellness Action

Plans for all


Mental health

training for


Parental leave

report published

Entered into

Britain’s Healthiest

Workplace survey

Articles of



Working from

home expanded to

all colleagues


made an explicit

strategic priority





B Corp



CR Committtee


All past


coded in

relation to the







office space


Net Zero target


Mental health

first aiding


Diversity monitoring

solution goes live

Personal and





Company Away

Day meditation



Strategy Community Marketplace Workplace

and Wellbeing


Looking Ahead

Here are some of the projects we are looking forward to tackling in 2020:

• undertaking an office move in Q1 to

provide more scope for biophilic

design, expanded communal areas,

and shower facilities;

• fitting out the new office in a more

sustainable way (eg. switching to LED

lightbulbs, which consume up to 80%

less energy compared to traditional

incandescent bulbs);

• expanding our office recycling facilities to

include batteries, glass, printer toner,

fluorescent tubes and lightbulbs;

• implementing new Workplace Health and

Wellbeing, Childcare, Environmental, and

Responsible Procurement policies;

• calculating our baseline emissions and

then creating a detailed plan to get us to

Net Zero by 2030;

• going plant-based and locally-sourced for

all Society events;

• getting rid of our office Nespresso

machine and switching to a B Corp

coffee supplier;

• launching a more holistic Health and

Wellbeing framework which will

encompass current areas of weakness such

as encouragement and support around

sleep and activity;

• working towards our B Corp

re-certification with a target score of 95+;

• educating colleagues on the power of their

pensions (eg. according to the FT, only 5%

of the UK’s biggest corporate pension

funds, which collectively oversee £479

billion in assets, have a policy on

climate change).

• finalising our implementation of Personal

and Professional Development Allowances;

If you’re interested in learning more about Society, we’d love to hear

from you. Please contact us on or via one

of our offices:

Society Europe

Society North America

The Johnson Building

404 5th Avenue

77 Hatton Garden Floor 7: 0ffice 030


New York

EC1N 8JS 10018

United Kingdom

United States

+44 (0)207 935 4052 +1 (917) 882 9827

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