These days there seems to be an ever growing list of global challenges facing governments, civil society, businesses and citizens of the planet. From cybersecurity threats to income inequality to extreme weather to homelessness to food and water insecurity, the range of problems is broad, and the issues, in many cases, are deep.
You can get depressed just thinking about all the challenges, and if you are a business leader you know these are not ideal conditions for any company to thrive. But there are a growing number of companies that are not only rising to the occasion to address these problems, but are doing so in a way that creates value for the business. Now in its fourth year, the Fortune Change the World list celebrates the changemakers – those pioneering business leaders who look at social issues material to their long-term success and say, “We can do things differently.” They’ve embarked on a strategic shift towards shared value, a smarter business model that reimagines the way companies build new markets, innovate, create distinction, and contribute to a thriving society and planet.
The Shared Value Initiative is proud to partner with some of these world-changing companies - we invite you to read more about how these leaders are using innovation to drive business and social results.
The timing was tragic. Merck embraced a vital mission in 2014 when it began developing an Ebola vaccine in collaboration with Canada’s public health agency and NewLink Genetics, not long after the deadly virus broke out in West Africa. Effective vaccines take months to create, and by the time V920 could be deployed, the disease had claimed thousands of lives.
But when the scourge rose again earlier this year, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Merck was ready. It shipped nearly 13,000 doses of V920 to the World Health Organization, which provided vaccinations to more than 3,300 people. The DRC’s health ministry says no vaccinated people developed the disease—and with another outbreak declared in the eastern DRC in August, Merck’s lifesaver is on the front lines once more.
Mindful of consumers’growing desire to know their clothes were made under safe working conditions, Inditex, the retailer and parent of fast fashion chain Zara, has steadily shifted production to suppliers with stronger safety records. Last year, 95% of its products were made at those better factories, up from 80% in 2012 and well above industry averages. Acting ethically hasn’t hurt the company financially; Inditex has posted 7% annual sales growth since 2012. The company also conducts its own training on worker safety, with an emphasis on educating women—85% of its factory staff—about how to recognize gender discrimination and defend their rights and their value.
The world’s largest company by revenue does not want to be a top source of greenhouse gas emissions. So Walmart last year launched Project Gigaton, aiming to reduce emissions related to its operations by a total of 1 billion tons by 2030. It plans to achieve that goal by using more renewable energy and more recycled content in packaging, and urging its suppliers to do the same. It also aims to reduce the amount of food that ends up in landfills. By the end of 2017, Walmart said it had diverted about 78% of waste from its facilities that would have gone to landfills, thanks to recycling and other measures; it also cut waste in its grocery business. Such efforts don’t just protect the environment; they also protect Walmart’s operating margins.
The health care system might work better if it did more to keep people healthy. Humana is testing that idea with Bold Goal, an effort to reduce “unhealthy days” among plan members by tackling hurdles such as loneliness, food insecurity, and transportation barriers. Humana has recorded health gains in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, among other cities, since Bold Goal launched.
Italy’s Enel is one of the world’s top producers of energy from renewables—zero emission sources account for 51% of its production. Now, through its Open Power strategy, it’s sharing green tech and tactics with startups, industrial partners, universities, and others. Enel has launched 147 energy projects with startups, 39 of which scaled to industrial deployment in the past three years.
America’s largest player in online payments (with 237 million accounts), PayPal is harnessing its huge scale to increase access to financial services for underbanked populations—and boosting the economy as a result. Over the past five years, for example, the company has loaned more than $5 billion to 150,000 small businesses—especially those in regions that lost brick-and-mortar bank branches after the financial crisis—through its Working Capital offering, which lets borrowers pay back the money with a cut of their PayPal sales. It has also mobilized the generosity of its vast community, with $8.5 billion donated to charity by PayPal customers and merchants in 2017.
Abbott’s $7 billion nutrition business depends on a reliable supply of high-quality milk. Working with nonprofit TechnoServe and Indian dairy firm Prabhat, Abbott is teaching Indian farmers, about half of whom are women, how to consistently produce such milk—and get fair prices for it. The program provides best practices in feeding and helps farmers improve their infrastructure. One year and 1,500 students in, farmer income has doubled, the volume of milk has nearly doubled, and its levels of nutrients are much higher.
Fortune’s annual “Change the World” list is intended to showcase the power of capitalism to improve the human condition by identifying 50 companies that have made an important social or environmental impact through their profit-making strategy and operations.
Companies (501c3 organizations will not be considered) with USD$1Bn+ in revenue will be evaluated on 4 essential criteria:
Measurable contribution to societal impact
Scale of business results
Degree of innovation relative to the industry
Level of executive commitment to purpose-driven growth
Each year, Fortune looks for new companies with recent impact. Companies that made the list in one year are rarely considered for a second year in a row. The initial solicitation and assessment of nominees is conducted in partnership with FSG, a nonprofit social-impact consulting firm, the Shared Value Initiative, a global platform for organizations seeking business solutions to social challenges, and Professor Michael E. Porter of Harvard Business School. A team of journalists from Fortune then investigates each of the candidates independently. The final list of 50 is selected by the editors of Fortune based on the magazine’s own reporting and analysis.
Please contact Alicia Dunn at the Shared Value Initiative with any questions.
Thank you for your interest!