Harry's new job as 'Chief Impact Officer' is appropriately superficial
Ever since Megxit saw the Sussexes walk away from the monarchy and reemerge across the Atlantic as private citizens, questions have abounded as to what the artist formerly known as Prince Harry might end up doing now that he’d been relieved of his royal duties. But now, we need wonder no more! Harry has been hired as the Chief Impact Officer for a U.S.-based coaching firm called BetterUp.
Oddly enough, Chief Impact Officer is one corporate position for which Harry is pretty well-qualified — a feat for a guy who has not so much as one single day of what a normal person might call “work experience” on his CV. The Chief Impact Officer is part spokesperson, part actuary, part reputation manager; his job is to make sure the company is doing good, not just doing well.
As noted by the BBC, it’s also a position that is less common in the corporate world. “Impact,” in this parlance, used to be more the concern of not-for-profit enterprises, for whom success has always been measured by other than financial means. But for the business world, and particularly on the west-coast where the whole-self, holistic-minded coaching industry promises not just improvement but transformation, social justice is increasingly a corporate concern. This is, after all, the era of woke capitalism. When every product from breakfast cereal to video games is expected to signal its alignment with a certain set of causes, simply running a profitable business doesn’t cut it anymore.
In a 2019 post on LinkedIn Pulse, businessman Thomas Bourne presciently noted that Chief Impact Officers would be the “next big thing in corporate C-suite recruitment” — and that “Impact” would replace “Sustainability” as the new buzzword. Companies used to demonstrate their rightsidedness by making clear they were thinking green, but modern consumers — and, more importantly, modern investors — want them to think bigger. Demonstrating social awareness is at least as important as saving the planet.
In this way, the Chief Impact Officer is very much a product of our particular moment, when an outspoken commitment to social progress is just part of the cost of doing business. It’s not dissimilar from the recent move by NASDAQ to delist companies that don’t meet certain diversity standards, a policy that will serve to make boardrooms superficially more colourful while still perpetuating all sorts of gross inequality further down the ladder. The goal is to signal one’s values without having to give up anything one, well, values, and the most desirable solution changes very little except appearances. Meanwhile, a company can keep on raking in cash hand over fist, engaging in corner-cutting and exploitative labor practices, as long as it looks like they care.
And Harry’s presence at BetterUp is, it must be said, a very good look. The company can be seen to care deeply about doing good in the world — and Harry can be seen as the son of the Crown who renounced his privilege to make a difference. It couldn’t be a better fit for a man who is experienced, above all, at keeping up appearances.