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Imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, quality food, affordable housing and education, top-tier medical care, ubiquitous clean energy, dignified opportunity, thriving economies, and global peace and security. Now, how might we get there? In this challenge, we’re examining the role that business – one of the most powerful, transformative forces in our world – can play as a driver of innovation and greater prosperity. How can business become an agent of world benefit and shape our society, our environment and our economy in positive, sustainable ways?

Setting the Stage

When it comes to social and environmental impact, we’ve learned that everyone – from individuals and communities, to governments and organisations – can play a role in positively shaping our global future. However, one major engine for global change, and the economic force behind that change, is business. 

Together with The Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University, we’re asking the OpenIDEO community to help us understand how businesses are integrating world benefit into their core operations – not only to deliver even more value for their customers and shareholders but also to succeed in the global marketplace. How can we identify these great innovators, learn from them and celebrate their efforts, while also inspiring others to follow suit – all for the purpose of accelerating positive change and achieving a flourishing future?

What Do We Mean by ‘Business as Agent of World Benefit’?

Peter Drucker, famed writer, management consultant and self-described ‘social ecologist,’ once said that every social and global problem of our day is a business opportunity that has yet to be reframed. Some companies are already adept at this reframing and have demonstrated that in fact businesses can positively influence our world for the better. For other companies, while they may be inspired to follow in these iconic footsteps, they don’t necessarily know the best path forward.

In this challenge, we’ll be focusing our efforts on businesses that act as agents of world benefit – that is, for profit ventures of any size, industry, location or purpose whose innovations not only create financial value and strategic advantages in the marketplace but that also drive positive advancements for society or the environment. Another way to think about this is to consider businesses that create Sustainable Value:

“Sustainable Value is defined as a dynamic state that occurs when a company creates ongoing value for its shareholders and stakeholders. By ‘doing good’ for society and the environment, the company does even better for its customers and shareholders than it otherwise would.”

To learn more about Sustainable Value, visit here. Also be sure to check out our Guiding Principles for this challenge.

Outcomes and Impact

Our efforts in this challenge will focus on three main areas:

  • Surfacing stories of companies, social enterprises and other for-profit ventures that create sustainable social, environmental and financial value for their stakeholders and communities
  • Outlining the beginnings of an unprecedented international award program to recognise and celebrate the work that these leading global businesses are driving forward
  • Leveraging these insights and stories to inspire and enable other companies to reframe their own efforts to include social and environmental returns, in addition to financial ones

The Fowler Center for Sustainable Value is eager to learn from our collective efforts and get inspired by our ideas as it works toward designing and launching a global award program for businesses that act as agents of world benefit.

About the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management

The Fowler Center for Sustainable Value leverages interdisciplinary scholarship and practice to help leaders capitalise on new profitable business opportunities to solve the world’s growing social and environmental problems. We work directly with all institutions to embed sustainability into their core strategy, applying cutting-edge competencies in design, innovation, whole systems and appreciative inquiry.

Images Courtesy of:
Canada in Afghanistan / Canada en Afghanistan (flickr): Kids Studying Together (Sept 2012).
NASA Goddard Photo and Video/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (flickr): NASA Watching Atlantic Tropics: Katia, Tropical Storm Lee and System 94L (Sept 2012).
WWarby/William Warby (flickr): Docklands Skyscraper (Sept 2012).

Community & Social Media Manager

 Meena Kadri 

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I think this is a great idea and process to inspire companies get success. Once we identify the benefit., companies will run much easier. However, all companies are different. They have different owners, managers, employees, products, customers, and so on. Therefore, there should not be only one particular business to inspire the other companies do the same.

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