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Fortune "Change the World" Event

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By Matt Wood (MBA '18)

On Oct. 4, the Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI) at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business hosted “Change the World,” an event featuring select companies who have been recognized on Fortune’s annual “Change the World” list. Each year, Fortune honors 50 innovative companies that are pioneers in creating shared societal value by driving social, economic, and environmental impact.

The event convened individuals from the business, policy, and nonprofit sectors who were eager to learn about how businesses can change the world by creating shared economic, social, and environmental value. Business executives delved into how their companies have addressed key social and environmental problems as a sizable part of their core business strategies.   As GSEI Founder Bill Novelli said, “companies like those on the stage today are moving forward through their sustainability plans, leading the way and changing the world.”

The event featured distinguished speakers, including:

The event began with a fireside chat between Leaf and McLaughlin, who discussed how companies must consider balancing short-term pressures while trying to implement corporate sustainability practices that often focus on the long term.  For example, McLaughlin said that Walmart’s stock fell 30 percent following the company’s announcement that it had increased their minimum wage to $9 per hour, implementing the new policy as a long-term investment to their employees.  Two years later, they are seeing the fruits of their labor and have a healthier and more productive workforce. 

As the event continued, panelists discussed how shared value is a competitive strategy and how long-term, triple bottom line thinking is essential for success.  Topics ranged from agriculture sustainability, operations, supply chain logistics, and value-based pricing models.  As consumers are increasingly demanding that companies have a higher shared value focus, companies want to be as transparent as possible with the consumer.  However, this presents challenges for multinational corporations given the sheer scope of their organizations. 

Paul Bakus, president of corporate affairs, Nestle, said, “It takes the whole ecosystem to create change.”

This event inspired and challenged attendees to become more socially conscious business leaders.  The panelists agreed that they must continue to promote their story and initiatives to better educate consumers. That is why these corporations are leading the charge and inspiring other companies to change the world. 

“Business has a responsibility and a role to solve social problems.  This no longer optional”, said Mark Kramer, co-founder and managing director at FSG Social Impact Consultants.  Chris Black, a Global Social Enterprise Initiative team leader, said, “The event reinforced the idea that social enterprise isn’t limited to a specific industry, company size or line of business.”