Why Business Must Become a Third Pillar of Social Change

In 2008 Bill Gates told the World Economic Forum that governments and philanthropies could no longer meet the needs of the world’s problems. He called on companies to accept greater responsibility to develop solutions to the massive problems that endlessly plague our planet, and to take on projects of “creative capitalism.”

Many people didn’t know what to make of it, or found it a little ironic coming from the world’s richest man. The issue was hotly debated but by 2013, this vision can no longer be called idealistic, unrealistic, or naïve. It’s fast becoming a reality and momentum is building every day. So what changed?

At the heart of the issue is social technology, including social media and smart phones. Both have given citizens and consumers an unprecedented power, voice, and ability to organize themselves around shared values. Armed with up to the minute information through posts or tweets, consumers now use their broadcasting power to spread the word about not only those companies that produced bad products, but also those guilty of inauthentic messaging, false promises, and unsustainable and irresponsible social behaviors. According to Edelman, 86% of consumers think businesses should place equal weight on society’s interests as on their own business interests, so in today’s world, impact royally trumps image.

We are witnessing a historical transformation in which the private sector is slowly emerging as a 3rd pillar of social change. So what can we learn from those companies leading the charge and how they scale their business success and impact? Here are three key elements that businesses must embrace to become purpose-driven brands that build their bottom line and a better world:


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