There is a new “must-read” on the lists of the leaders, thinkers, and doers devoted to solving the most pressing of the world’s problems: A Better World, Inc. by Alice Korngold.
Filled with tangible examples of companies addressing wide ranging issues of economic development, climate change and energy, ecosystems, education, healthcare, and human rights, Korngold lists example after example of companies squarely facing these needs with innovative solutions that create shared value, including the very profit that sustains them.
On January 30, Korngold joined a group of friends, fans, and a few skeptics to discuss the book and the cases and research on which it is based.
Korngold is clear. Although her own career has been devoted largely to building the capacity of not-for-profit organizations, her appreciation for the existing and potential power of the private sector has grown over the past twenty years, culminating in an important assessment: not only can companies profit by solving global problems, but they must address global problems to be profitable. No other sector can do it. Her research is profound: scores of personal interviews with successful leaders and a 35+ page bibliography.
While there are myriad issues to choose from, Korngold advises companies to choose the issues which best align with their own core competencies, as well as their own vision, mission, and strategies.
And lest someone might leave the event thinking only business is important, Korngold was clear to point out the critical roles of both the public and social sector.
Sustainable and responsible business wants and needs good governance. Business might have the power, but it must be appropriately governed. “Rules must be clear,” said Korngold. “Government has the responsibility to enforce the rules.”
And what about the role of the social sector and the donor community? Korngold is equally clear that they also have an essential role to play. NGOs are often the first to articulate and target a knotty social or environmental problem and provide an important perspective. Donors play a role in seeding initial investment and innovation, which open the opportunity for businesses to understand and then scale sustainable solutions.
Clearly, no one sector can go it alone. However, in the book’s preface, Korngold notes, “Only global corporations have the vast resources, international scope, global workforces, and incentives of the marketplace to truly bring about the changes that are necessary in order to achieve global peace and prosperity.”
That’s a tall order, but Korngold’s book is filled with the living examples of the companies—and their visionary and insightful leaders—who are committed to doing just that.
Laura Asiala is the Vice President, Public Affairs at PYXERA Global. Passionate about the power of business to solve—or help solve—the world’s most intransigent problems, she leads the efforts to attract more participation of businesses to contribute to sustainable development through their people and their work. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Net Impact, a community of more than 40,000 student and professional leaders creating positive social and environmental change in the workplace.