Economics & Trade Policy

Published on February 19th, 2014 | by Francoise Van Keuren

Doing Well and Doing Good: The Business for Good Summit

The McCombs School of Business Net Impact Chapter is hosting its 6th annual summit on business and social impact. Formerly called the Sustainable Business Summit, The Business for Good Summit has broadened its scope to address some of the more meaningful questions about how business can be used as a platform to affect social and environmental change. Panelists at the Summit will discuss topics such as the role of technology in education, energy innovation and climate change, sustainable and responsible investment, and the role of entrepreneurship in international economic development.

The Summit comes at a time when those involved in international development are asking questions about how the private sector can be more involved in projects typical to governments and NGOs. Proponents of private sector involvement in social welfare projects feel that harnessing business and investment funds has the opportunity for great benefits. Government organizations, such as USAID, and NGOs are no longer solely responsible in addressing social and environmental wealth issues—businesses and investors have just as much at stake in a global environment that continues to embrace greater economic interconnectivity.

This trend signifies a shift in private sector perceptions and what their consumers and shareholders expect of them. With the advent of open source data and increased transparency, consumers and shareholders hold companies more accountable. There is heightened emphasis on not just shareholder value, but also the social value of company shares. Furthermore, as B4G Summit leader Sean Pool points out, there are new business opportunities for companies on board with these new norms.

“Take for example the micro-finance work that the Whole Planet Foundation is funding,” says Pool. “By providing credit to small business owners and entrepreneurs, the Whole Planet Foundation is injecting capital into parts of the world that desperately need it, and the result is a blossoming of businesses, job creation, and economic development. But these are loans, not aid. Which means the Foundation can re-invests this capital again and again”. Joy Stoddard, a Director of WPF, will be speaking on this and other topics at the Summit.

As policymakers and business leaders embark on new challenges in economic development, these challenges also beg new innovations and solutions. A smart and innovative company will run towards these challenges. Additionally, they could be rewarded by profit and the feel good sentiment of adding real value to the world.

Pool also notes that these business model shifts are significant to NGOs and governments as well. While old models of economic development depended on aid from donors, there is now a real opportunity to create new models that emphasize economic self-sustainability and continued growth, despite cuts in funding.  This could mean that NGOs modify their models individually, or enter into partnerships with like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs.

As the private sector increases its role in social welfare impact, there undoubtedly will be new challenges obstructing clear progress. When asked about the challenges that businesses and investors face by embracing social impact strategies, Pool answered that this is why he and his colleagues are so excited about the Summit. Many of the panelists of the event have confronted these obstacles and will discuss their setbacks, experiences, and best practices in business based social impact.

The Business for Good Summit represents private and public sector convergence in social and economic development. Globalization has forced policymakers and business leaders to think critically about their missions and business models. Leaders that can think critically and creatively will lead this shift towards responsible investment and innovation, and hopefully, will lead the international community to a brighter future.

The Summit will take place between 2pm and 6pm on Tuesday February 25th at the McCombs School of Business. For more information and to register to attend, please visit the Summit website: http://www.utsummit.org/

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About the Author

Francoise Van Keuren

is a masters student in the Global Policy program at the LBJ School for Public Affairs. Françoise focuses on international development and economic policy.



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