Report

Innovative Business Approaches to Social Impact

We’re hearing more discussions promoting the idea that the primary purpose of business may extend beyond maximizing shareholder value. Of course, companies need to pursue profits to stay in business and grow, but the idea that companies can – and even should – consider the effects their actions have on society and the environment continues to gain traction for a variety of reasons.

Some are frustrated by government inaction and are concerned that philanthropy cannot solve global problems alone. Others say that companies can no longer ignore the risks caused by social and environmental challenges – for instance, those resulting from climate change, corruption, income inequality and social unrest. And still others believe that pursuing a larger purpose is the path to innovation, to employee engagement, to customer loyalty and to a strong, positive reputation.

Increasingly, this idea is being embraced by business leaders – not just from companies long known for being socially minded such as Ben & Jerry’s and Patagonia, but also from other firms such as Nike, Starbucks, Danone and JP Morgan Chase.

This special report from Knowledge@Wharton and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative highlights how business leaders and academics are leveraging the tools of business to drive innovation and impact. The selected articles highlight a range of approaches — from fintech innovations that support access to financial products and services to big data analytics that support safer, more vibrant communities. The articles also explore how investors consider social impact in their investments and how finance could be used to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

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