Employing Business as a Force for Good
The mandate of INSEAD Social Impact Initiative is to generate knowledge and increase awareness on how business and management tools can best serve as a means for achieving societal progress. Market-driven economic growth has raised living standards worldwide, including lifting over one billion people out of extreme poverty in recent decades. At the same time, humanity continues to grapple with critical issues like environmental degradation and a perception of rising inequality. Resolving such concerns has in the past been a task for non-profits, development agencies or governments. We strive to broaden these conversations and explore how businesses can proactively seek a positive impact and participate in coming up with solutions to these issues.
Goals related to social or environmental impact do not have to be an after-thought: they could be built into strategy formulation and implementation right from the start. For people working in a for-profit company or a social enterprise, adopting this mindset can help better align commercial and societal agenda to achieve more significant and sustainable impact. Even for people working in a non-profit, government organization or development agency, this way of thinking can bring business-like discipline and efficiency in realizing social objectives. Either way, moving beyond just good intentions to thinking rigorously about impact is necessary for us to carve out a unique path for each of us to contribute to society within the opportunities and constraints our respective contexts offer.
Business alone is not going to fix all societal problems, and is best seen as a complement to other sectors. Emerging hybrid organizational forms – such as different kinds of social enterprises - have a particularly critical role to play in bridging the conversations between doing well and doing good. These are exciting times, with new areas like “impact-driven business”, “impact investing” and “impact evaluation” placing social impact at the center of conversations about what business ought to strive towards in overcoming challenges capitalism is struggling with. We are making progress towards a new global ecosystem where individuals and organizations would find it easier to blend their financial and social goals. It is important for all of us to break silos and engage in collaboration to actively define a new form of capitalism we will be proud to leave behind for future generations.