Social innovation in business- what is it and why it matters


I’ve been busy writing a booklet on social innovation. Social innovation can be defined as the introduction of new products or services that help meet our society’s social and environmental challenges. It is emerging as a promising new way to bridge non-profits, government agencies and business actors. Through social innovation, the polarization between business and non-profits fades away.

Most of the literature on social innovation comes from social actors who are exploring ways to enterprise non-profits, improve public service or create small social businesses to address local needs. I come at the subject from a business perspective. What role can and should business play to address our social problems, how can they partner with non-profits and public authorities and help identify and scale-up social innovation?

The benefits to business of investing in social innovation are numerous:

  1. It is a source of innovation– helping identify and launch new products and services to existing or new markets.
  2. It increases employee motivation and engagement– people like to work on meaningful projects.
  3. It is a source of social capital– it builds reputational resilience.
  4. It helps manage risk at a corporate level– reputational risk, for example, can be greatly reduced through activities that have positive social impact.
  5. It can contribute to reducing the use of resources– by identifying new ways of reducing, recycling and re-using resources, companies can reduce their environmental footprint and make a measurable impact on the bottom line.
  6. It can help brand the company in a positive way– think of The Body Shop, Patagonia or Mountain Equipment Coop. All these organizations have stellar brand images, thanks to a commitment to innovation and environmental sustainability.

I would love to hear your comments or suggestions on how social innovation can be applied in a business world.

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3 Responses to Social innovation in business- what is it and why it matters

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