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How Big Business Is Driving Social Change

Organizations of all sizes realize that corporate social responsibility plays a role in who consumers choose to do business with.

In today’s socially conscious world, businesses of all sizes are proudly taking public stands on issues such as the environment, human rights, fair trade, and even ethical practices. While “cause-based” corporate missions were once associated with smaller companies and brands, large corporations are now taking advantage of their power and reach to communicate their positions on corporate social responsibility to their massive consumer bases—and to society at large. In this proactive stance, big business is actually driving social change, not just reacting to it.

The list of socially responsible companies is quickly growing as management discovers that being socially responsible is good for the bottom line. A few familiar names include Burt’s Bees, TOMS Shoes, Whole Foods, General Electric, Kenneth Cole, The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry’s, and even industry giants like Google, Microsoft, and Disney. Here are three examples of companies using their business and socially-aware consumer base as a platform to drive social change:

How Big Business Is Driving Social Change

  • Starbucks: A pioneer in corporate social responsibility, Starbucks was started in 1971 with a mission of conducting business while acting responsibly and ethically. The main focus of the multibillion-dollar company is on the sustainable production of green coffee—as evidenced by Starbucks’ Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices sustainability standards.

    More recently, Starbucks began selling Ethos® Water to help raise awareness of the more than one billion people worldwide who lack access to clean water. A percentage of every Ethos® purchase goes to the company’s Ethos® Water Fund, and is distributed via grants to support water, sanitation, and hygiene education programs worldwide. So far, millions of dollars in grant funding have helped more than 500,000 people in water-stressed countries.*

  • Method: The rise of this eco-friendly home and personal care products company ($100 million in annual revenues by 2012) is another example of how big business is driving social change. Founders and former roommates Adam Lowry and Eric Ryan made green cleaning fashionable with their beautifully designed biodegradable bottles and natural ingredients. Several years ago, Method developed the world’s first bottles made with a blend of recovered beach plastic and post-consumer recycled plastic.

  • Pedigree: Socially responsible Pedigree dog food built its brand by focusing on the need for people to adopt homeless dogs. That mission has become the message in their advertising. Pedigree encourages people to adopt, make donations that fund shipments of Pedigree dog food to shelter animals waiting to be adopted, and buy Dogs Rule® gear, the proceeds of which go directly to helping homeless dogs find loving homes.

Social Responsibility Is No Longer Optional

In its latest annual survey, Nielsen reported that almost two-thirds (66%) of consumers are willing to pay more for products or services from companies committed to positive social change and environmental impact. The statistic represents a sizable jump from 55% in 2014. This trend has sparked business professionals’ interest in furthering their education with Master of Business Administration (MBA degree) programs and doctoral degree programs such as the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)—particularly those offering social change-focused specializations such as social impact management.

Online business management degree programs with a focus on social change teach master’s and doctoral students how to apply cutting-edge research to find real-world business solutions to today’s most important issues. With executive-level critical thinking and problem-solving skills, graduates can better prepare to help organizations identify, develop, and implement social change goals that support the world around them—as well as their bottom line.

Career options for online MBA and DBA graduates include a variety of leadership roles in settings that include private and nonprofit sectors in numerous business markets, government and nongovernment agencies, and more.

Explore how Walden University can help you advance your career through our online master’s degree programs and online doctoral degree programs, offered in a convenient format that allows you to balance work and personal commitments.

*Starbucks, Ethos® Water Fund, on the Internet at

†The New York Times, Small Business, A Soap Maker Sought Compatibility in a Merger Partner, on the Internet at

‡Nielson, Press Room, Consumer-Goods’ Brands That Demonstrate Commitment to Sustainability Outperform Those That Don’t, on the Internet at