‘Sustainability is the biggest business opportunity of the 21st century’
David Cooperrider says the BAWB Global Forum creates paradigm shifts

The 2009 Business as an Agent of World Benefit (BAWB) Global Forum was well-received because of its powerful theme which added design to the fields of corporate citizenship and sustainability creating an innovation engine, says David Cooperrider.

The forum convened top experts and innovators June 2-5 at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“I was just very pleased with the ways in which the Global Forum can serve to help create a paradigm shift in the field,” says Cooperrider, Weatherhead School of Management professor and forum facilitator.

He says this shift is possible in part because of the forum partners, including the United Nations Global Compact with its 5,000 corporate members and the Academy of Management with more than 19,000 business school professors from 90 countries.

“The idea of the Global Forum is to bring the best thinkers in the world from our business schools together and some of the top executives in the world to really advance the next stages of . . . corporate citizenship and sustainability,” Cooperrider tells Axiom News.

As the editor of the Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Cooperrider says 98 per cent of the article submissions reflect an older picture of corporate citizenship, noting there seems to be a pendulum-like debate between economist Milton Freidman’s “business is just business” viewpoint and the perspective that corporations should be socially responsible and sustainable.

Cooperrider says they designed the Global Forum around an idea he talked about with Peter Drucker, father of modern management, shortly before Drucker passed away.

Cooperrider shared with Drucker stories of business as a force for peace in high conflict zones, business as a force for the eradication of extreme poverty and business as a force for eco-innovation. He talked about concrete examples, like cell phones designed as cradle to cradle that can be planted in a garden and later turn into a daisy.

“I shared all these stories with Peter Drucker and he smiled and he said, ‘you know, David, I wrote about it many years ago. Every single social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity in disguise; it is just waiting for the pragmatism of good business, the innovation and entrepreneurship of good business and the ability for good business to invest and to bring its strengths to bear on the global issues,’” says Cooperrider.

This premise — that every single social and global issue of our day is a business opportunity — is the foundation of the Global Forum, says Cooperrider, adding they go a step further as the presenters showed one after another.

“Sustainability is not just another business opportunity, but sustainability is the biggest business opportunity of the 21st century, it is not going away, for the companies that approach it as a call to imagination and innovation it is probably the biggest innovation engine I’ve ever seen.”

— Part One of a Series

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