Business as an Agent of World Benefit: A World-Shaping Opportunity

"Imagine a world of nine billion people with clean water, quality food, affordable housing and education, top-tier medical care, ubiquitous clean energy, dignified opportunity, thriving economies, and global peace and security."

Do we have the courage to dream such an audacious, bodacious vision? Is it possible for us to make this beautiful compelling dream come true? David Cooperrider and we at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value believe that when businesses innovate for greater well-being and prosperity, in partnership with civil society organizations and governmental bodies, every social and global issue of our day becomes an opportunity to ignite industry leading eco-innovation, social entrepreneurship and new sources of value.

Guided by David's vision, the Fowler Center has launched a major research project, a global-scale search across cultures for the kinds of organizations and partnerships that might impact businesses becoming agents of world benefit. Partnering with OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform for social and environmental impact, we invited people around the world to provide input and share their stories to help us identify and celebrate businesses that innovate for world benefit. People from 100 countries have contributed insights and ideas. You can learn more by visiting: You may also want to see a video of David Cooperrider talking about Business as an Agent of World Benefit:

Our goal is to create a Business as an Agent for World Benefit Nobel-Like prize to inspire and celebrate businesses that exemplify doing business as a force for good. The prize is inspired by the principles and guidelines of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and the Nobel Prizes.

"For years we have been focusing on the relationship between business and society. We have been gathering stories of -- business as a force for peace in high conflict areas; business as a force to eradicate extreme poverty; business as a force for eco-innovation and business as a force for global health - with the purpose to accelerate positive change and achieve a flourishing future?" David Cooperrider

Our highest aspiration is to ignite a global movement that would pull us into a new reality - a reality where businesses thrive and prosper by putting their resources, global presence and the ingenuity of their people to work, for the health and well-being of people, and the planet.

David Cooperrider, PhD, is best known as the co-creator and visionary thought leader of Appreciative Inquiry. He is the Faculty Director at the Fowler Center for Sustainable Value at Case Western Reserve. The Center's mission is to advance new knowledge for transforming the world's most complex problems into business opportunities for industry-leading innovation and world-shaping benefit.

TEDx San Francisco -- 7 Billion Well: Re-Imaging Global Health. This magnanimous, courageous vision is the theme of TEDx San Francisco's upcoming conference. On November 10 they are convening "...the best thought leaders and emerging pioneers to bring the latest multidisciplinary ideas in addressing the most pressing health issues of our world today". Their featured speakers will share inspirational stories of innovation, revolution, and change. David and I are thrilled and honored to join this conversation and share the Fowler Center's world-changing idea of a Business as an Agent of World Benefit Nobel-Like prize. For more information about the this historic event please go to

David Cooperrider's journey to create Business as an Agent for World Benefit began 25 years ago. I decided to share his story because some of the greatest thought leaders and world-changing events of our time have influenced the development of his vision.

It was 1987, when David had an epiphany while having a conversation with Willis Harman, the renowned Futurist who studied global systems. Harman was sharing his scenarios on the trajectory of the world's future and the only scenario that was optimistic was one where businesses emerged as a powerful creative force for good. David vividly remembers that defining moment -- "My Meeting Willis Harman in his office was like opening the doors in the mind." The seeds of Business as an Agent of World Benefit were firmly planted in David's mind and heart that day.

The next defining moment on David's journey was 9/11. This horrific event propelled David forward. He developed a sense of urgency to grow the idea that had emerged in his meeting with Willis Harman fourteen years earlier.

Peter Drucker, the management "Guru" and self-described "social ecologist," influenced David's vision. In a meeting about Business as an Agent of World Benefit, Drucker told David "... every social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity in disguise... just waiting for the pragmatism of good business, its capacity for innovation and entrepreneurship, and its management for results."

The 1999 gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos set the stage for the next phase of David's vision. At this historic event Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited leaders and executives from business, labor, and civil society to collaborate to solve the most intractable problems in our world. Kofi Annan said: "Let us choose to unite the power of markets with the strength of universal ideals. Let us choose to reconcile the creative forces of private entrepreneurship with the needs of the disadvantaged and the requirements of future generations."

Then in 2004 Secretary-General Kofi Annan invited David to design and facilitate a summit on global corporate citizenship. At this historic, unprecedented summit, Kofi Annan and 500 business leaders met to "unite the strengths of the markets with the authority of universal ideals to make globalization work for everyone". As a result of this summit, Case Western Reserve University, in cooperation with the Academy of Management and the UN Global Compact, created the Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit. At their 2006 Forum these strategic sponsors developed the platform for an ongoing tri-annual event.

At their 2009 Forum, the delegates came to the shared conclusion that -- business has the opportunity to be one of the most creative forces on the planet. "The 21st century can become an unprecedented century of sustainable innovation where businesses can excel, people can thrive, and nature can flourish". See examples cases at

Business as an Agent for World Benefit is not merely a dream. There are thriving companies that are living this vision today. One powerful example is GOJO Industries. "Saving lives and making life better through well-being solutions" is the GOJO Purpose. They invent and manufacture hand hygiene and skin care products for away-from-home and consumer markets.

GOJO is in the business of doing well by doing good. Social sustainability is at the heart of this Akron, Ohio-based company's success. They are the inventors of PURELL Instant Hand Sanitizer, one of the most recognized brands in the world. "Sustainability is a purpose-driven commitment for GOJO", says Joe Kanfer, Chairman and CEO. "We embrace sustainability as a business priority, building upon the value passed on to us by our company founders, and we continue to develop products to solve public health problems".

In 1946 Goldie and Jerry Lippman founded GOJO with the singular purpose of providing workers with a better way to clean their hands -- a safer, gentler alternative to the harsh, carcinogenic chemicals commonly used in the 1940s by automotive technicians. They pioneered the first one-step heavy duty waterless hand cleaner. It was developed to make it economical for auto service businesses to provide a safe way for workers to clean up. Customer acceptance of their innovations demonstrated an important lesson: A business can achieve economic success by delivering a human benefit.

Beyond North America, GOJO is advancing community-based social sustainability outcomes through its initiative focused to improve the health of children in economically disadvantaged communities in water-restricted regions of Latin America. The initiative was inspired by the results of a nine-month study conducted by Dr. Juan Correa, a University of Colombia professor, in 42 daycare centers in towns with limited access to running water. The children were given PURELL Instant Hand Sanitizer combined with hand hygiene education. The results: a 36 percent reduction in diarrhea cases and an 18 percent decrease in respiratory illnesses.

"As the global leader in hand hygiene, it is our privilege to collaborate with scientists, public health officials, educators and our business partners in different communities to learn how to positively impact health outcomes."
says GOJO Vice Chair Marcella Kanfer Rolnick. "Findings like those of Dr. Correa's inspire us to further advance our commitment to human and societal well-being and challenge ourselves to develop new solutions to meet the emerging health and hygiene needs of children, their families, workers and communities."

At GOJO, social sustainability begins at home. They convened its first Sustainability Summit in 2009. This was a powerful call-to-action engaging hundreds of team members (employees), suppliers, thought leaders and other stakeholders through Appreciative Inquiry. As a result, team members are now dedicated to the pursuit of sustainable value in both the products the company develops and the processes to produce them.

The company published aggressive five-year target goals in three key areas relative to the baseline year of 2010. Within just one year, GOJO had made significant progress on each goal:

Reduce water usage by 30% -- In saving 3.8 million gallons of water--roughly the equivalent of the content of 30.8 million water bottles--they achieved a first-year reduction in water usage of 13%.

Reduce solid waste by 25% -- In the first year, they achieved a 15% decrease in solid waste.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 5% -- GOJO exceeded its 2015 goal by cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% in just one year!

Learn how GOJO achieved these remarkable results by vreading their 2011 GOJO Sustainability Report at

In addition to delivering both social and environmental benefits, GOJO efforts are contributing to its economic success via greater efficiencies, reduced costs, product innovation and sustained growth, as illustrated by the company's annual double-digit growth over the last several years -- all proof that integrating sustainability into a company's business strategy can deliver bottom-line benefits.

Here's one more impressive number: "Bring well-being to one billion people every day." This is GOJO's sustainability BHAG -- in the GOJO culture, that's an acronym for a "big, hairy, audacious goal," The company leadership knows that the most challenging goals are often those most worth pursuing.

GOJO is one more example of a company achieving prosperity through a heartfelt commitment to advancing sustainability for the well-being of the world.

I believe, to realize A Flourishing World and "7 Billion Well", the business community must find the courage to redefine success. Business as an Agent of World Benefit Noble-Like prize can serve as a catalyst to inspire companies to transform the business model from profit as a single aim, to "Sustainable Value" -- Doing Well by Doing Good. David Cooperrider asserts: "The shift from shareholder value to "Sustainable Value" is the natural outcome of a new external environment characterized by declining natural resources, radical transparency and rising expectations... It's about today's companies and their partners unleashing disruptive innovations that address humankind's greatest transitional opportunities, on the pathway from non-sustainability to sustainability - to a world-wide state of flourishing."

These hopeful visions of our future are not impossible dreams -- they are insights into the capacity of human potential. If we look around at the amazing things we have created, they were all considered impossible by the status quo at some time in their development. Like the seeds planted in David Cooperrider's heart and mind at his meeting with Willis Harman, I believe the seeds that hold a vision for better world lie within each of us -- waiting for the right time and conditions to germinate and grow. I believe this our time! We now have the knowledge, technology and the will to create a better world. Business can be profitable by being a powerful force for good, resulting in a world where people and the planet will flourish.