Business educators may be in for a surprise. Something
extraordinary is happening in the global marketplace that defies
classic principles taught at virtually every business school.
Superior product quality and competitive pricing may no longer
stand above all others as the most critical variables in the
equation for business success. In the evolving global marketplace
that I call World Inc., a third strategic factor is coming into
play: social responsibility. By that, I mean making products and
delivering services that generate profits but also help society
address challenges such as climate change, energy security,
healthcare, and poverty.
This business trinity of quality, price, and social response is
emerging even as multinational corporations acquire unprecedented
economic power. Consider these eye-opening facts about their clout
at the dawn of the 21st century:
* Of the world's 100 largest economies, 29 were corporations, not
* The combined sales of the top 200 global corporations were the
equivalent of 28 percent of world gross domestic product.
* Roughly a third of all world trade took place among
A growing number of multinational business leaders is already
demonstrating that tomorrow's most successful enterprises will be
those willing to devote unprecedented time and effort to incorporate
social responsibility into their business models. If the trend
continues, it will change the way giant enterprises do business.
At first glance, social response initiatives may appear to be
superficial public relations stunts. A closer look at the 300
largest firms in this new century reveals that most are really all
about business opportunities, profit gains, and expanding market
Take, for example, the culture shift occurring at General
Electric. GE's "Ecomagination" campaign features a lovable dancing
rain-forest elephant that projects a friendly corporate face for CEO
Jeffrey Immelt that is very different from the hard-edged,
calculating one offered by his legendary predecessor, Jack Welch.
Actually, the change in strategy reflects GE's recognition of
advances in markets for environmentally friendlier technologies such
as wind power - one of the fastest-growing power sources in the
world. It sees green technology for what it is: a great business
opportunity. By 2010, GE plans to double its investment in such
green solutions to $1.5 billion and double revenue from products
included in the campaign from $10 billion to $20 billion annually. …