These days, the public is demanding more than ever from brands they buy from--and increasingly it is rewarding companies whose services and products are both good for them and good for society.
The good news is that a growing number of businesses have responded in kind.
In August, Fortune came out with its Change the World list of 51 companies that have made a sizable impact on major global social or environmental problems as part of their core business strategy.
In introducing it, Editor Alan Murray wrote the list was intended to "shine a spotlight on companies that have made significant progress in addressing major social problems as part of their core business strategy. It is based on our belief that capitalism should be not just tolerated but celebrated for its power to do good."
The takeaway here for corporations is that in the minds of its customers making money and having a positive impact on the world are no longer considered mutually exclusive.
Still, in this age of transparency, social media, and public skepticism, companies that link their business strategy to societal outcomes must place a premium on educating consumers, engaging customers, key influencers, journalists, and analysts.
This requires a top-notch communications team adept at finding creative ways to reach target audiences and bringing a company's technology, innovation and global impact to life.
What's essential is being able to translate impact statistics and results into compelling stories and narratives.
One such company on Fortune's list Opower (NYSE: OPWR) excels at this.
In its less than ten years of existence, Opower has transformed how people think about their energy use and the way utilities engage with customers.
Opower uses big data analytics and cutting-edge behavioral science to empower utility customers to control their energy usage, see how it compares to their neighbors and save money.
As Opower's Casey Davis-Van Atta astutely observes, in the electric power industry, "meaningful customer engagement is the Holy Grail. Maintaining clear, two-way conversations with its users translates to more cost-effective demand-side management and better customer care."
What additionally makes Opower unique from other leading technology innovators on the Fortune list is that they have figured out how to change minds and create new paradigms within the construct of an existing industry model.
Explains Opower President & Founder Alex Laskey at a 2013 Ted Talk, "For the past five years we've been running the largest behavioral science experiment in the world. And, it's working... This year alone, in partnership with more than 80 utilities in six countries, we're going to generate another two terawatt hours of electricity savings -- more than enough energy to power every home in St. Louis and Salt Lake City for more than a year."
Today, Opower's software is deployed to more than 95 utilities worldwide and reaches more than 50 million homes and businesses.
Millennials and the Future of Electric Utilities
As I've previously written, Millennials make up the fastest growing force in the marketplace and the consumer market of the future.
Understanding what millennials want and how they behave is vital to the future of utilities.
The good news for utilities and Millennials is that Opower has provided a vehicle to connect the two.
In its paper on "Millennials and the Future of Electric Utilities," Brookings observes that the "millennial customer wants information, services, and products that meet the criteria of the three "Cs": cheap, convenient and cool."
The millennial customer wants information, and they are used to getting it fast. Opower's deeply personalized insights help utility customers understand their energy use at moments that matter.
We also know that Millennials are socially conscious, and sustainability is a part of the millennial fabric.
Embodying its mission to motivate everyone on Earth to save energy, Opower helps utilities in incentivizing customers to reduce power consumption, which saves money and reduces the impact on our environment.
In fact, Opower's programs have already saved more than eight terawatt-hours of electricity, equating to more than $1 billion in utility customer savings and enough energy to power all of the homes in New Mexico for a year.
Not bad when considering all this is accomplished by a powerful combination of data analysis, marketing and a pinch of psychology!