Corporate Social Innovation

From the World Economic Forum

The business world is increasingly taking note of the risks and opportunities posed by social and environmental issues for business sustainability and competitiveness. For the first time, the 2015 Harvard Business Review ranking of the top 100 performing CEOs in the world – a measure aimed at evaluating long-term performance – weighted social and environmental performance at 20% of the overall score. The #1 CEO on the list, Lars Rebien Sørensen of Novo Nordisk, crisply summed up the importance of this shift in measuring success: “In the long term, social and environmental issues become financial issues.”

Sørensen’s statement underscores the central premise of the corporate social innovation project – designing business models and strategies to solve social issues is squarely in the long-term competitive interest of a company. This trend among corporates has enormous disruptive potential and deserves to be promulgated, celebrated, and accelerated. As a core project of the Forum’s Global Challenge Initiative on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion, the corporate social innovation project will articulate a framework for action, including guiding principles each company can tailor to identify a strategic intervention given their particular industry dynamics and market conditions, and specific step-by-step recommendations for how to turn ideas into scalable models. Through thought leadership publications, tools and action-oriented workshops and collaborations, the project will engage companies across industries and regions to advance this agenda. As such, the project’s objectives complement the Challenge’s country-level policy and benchmarking efforts and help companies to advance meaningful implementation at the firm level.


The project is focused on changing corporate behaviour and practices around social inclusion. Increasingly, companies are exploring socially inclusive but financially attractive business strategies (what we term social innovation) that enhance their long term competitiveness agenda. The project goals are to:

  • Change corporate behaviour and accelerate the design and implementation of socially inclusive business strategies
  • Enhance the contribution of business to the SDGs inclusive growth in their core markets
  • Facilitate collective action partnerships between companies, policy makers and social innovators

Social Innovation: A Guide to Achieving Corporate and Societal Value

As a central effort in the Global Challenge Initiative on Economic Growth and Social Inclusion, this is a “how to guide” for companies to create social and business value. Drawn from a series of workshops and interviews with more than 35 executives from leading companies, and guided by the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Innovation, this guide offers an action framework.

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