By Ellen McGirt
September 7, 2017

Fortune just published its 2017 Change the World list, which highlights the work of corporations making social benefit part of their core businesses. Now in its third year, here’s my working title for this group of companies: Definitive Proof That It’s Possible to Do Right by Your Shareholders, Your Employees, Your Customers, and the World at Large.

To introduce this year’s list, Fortune chief Clifton Leaf shares a conversation he had last August with Unilever CEO Paul Polman, in which Polman shared an eye-popping data point: Some 1.8 million people now apply to work at the consumer giant company every year, many of whom are under 40. Here’s more from Cliff’s intro:

“According to the data,” Polman reveals, “60% more or less—I’m rounding it—say it’s the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, and the bigger purpose that we have as a business.” The Sustainable Living Plan is the company’s blueprint for growing the business while reducing waste, water, and energy use, sourcing raw materials in a smarter way, helping local farmers, and striving for other earth-friendly goals. The wide-eyed applicants who are sending résumés by the trainload may not pine to sell packaged goods to the well-packaged masses—but Polman figures, “They say, ‘At the end of the day, I’m going to make a difference that is bigger than I could have done myself.’ ”

The full list and its methodology can be found here. Every entry is an education, so spend some time with it if you can.

Before squinting at JP Morgan Chase, which holds the top spot, consider its commitment to Detroit, a rust belt city reeling from years of disinvestment. A smart annual investment of $250 million into community-building initiatives and a dedicated team of advisers, has created some 1,700 new jobs and seeded 100 new businesses since 2014. It’s a model that can scale. (Don’t miss the short video on what the country’s biggest bank has been up to here.)

That’s the beauty of the list: The business case for visionary corporate impact is deeply intertwined with the business case for diversity. I’ll let Polman break it down. “It’s still difficult to explain it to your shareholders, obviously,” he told Fortune. “But ultimately the people that you employ—or the people you are able to attract—is actually the backbone of your success.”


You May Like