This morning Fortune releases its third annual Change the World list, which highlights 56 companies that are making measurable progress addressing important social problems—not as charity or “corporate social responsibility,” but rather as a core part of their business strategy.
We started this list two years ago—in partnership with the Shared Value Initiative—because we saw a steadily increasing number of big companies making moves in this direction, including companies as diverse as Unilever, Marriott, and Salesforce. Capitalism, of course, has always had its social benefits—a billion people around the globe can thank it for pulling them out of poverty over the last quarter century. But the companies on this list were doing something different. They were making a conscious effort to harness the profit motive to address some of the most intractable issues the world faces.
Why? In some cases, it was because they saw opportunity where others saw problems. In other cases—Chobani, for instance—their actions reflected a particular passion of the CEO. In almost every case, leaders of these companies say their efforts have helped them attract talented young millennials who want to work for companies doing good in the world. Unilever’s Paul Polman told Fortune Editor-in-Chief Cliff Leaf that 1.8 million people applied for jobs at his company last year, not because they have a passion for soap and mayonnaise, but because of the company’s determined focus on sustainability.
Some cynics will scoff at names on this list. There’s J.P. Morgan Chase—what about the London Whale?—or Apple—what about long hours for Chinese workers? We’re not saying these companies operate under a halo of unmitigated goodness, nor are we vouching for their every action. All we are doing is shining a spotlight on the fact that each has made measurable progress addressing a societal problem with an innovative business program. And that’s worth celebrating.
Take a look and decide for yourself—you can read the list here. At a time when government seems unable to address even the most obvious and pressing problems, efforts like this by the private sector are more important than ever.
We’ll be feting companies on the Change the World list at Fortune’s CEO Initiative—a gathering of CEOs who are focused on strategies to address social problems—in New York on September 25. You can learn more about the initiative here.
• Southeast Braces for Irma Impact
Hurricane Irma laid waste to Barbuda and a handful of other Caribbean islands as it approached the southeast coast. Florida, Georgia and South Carolina have all announced a state of emergency, amid reports of incipient fuel shortages and price gouging. Orange prices are also rocketing in anticipation of widespread crop destruction. On the other side of the ledger, Jet Blue and American Airlines instigated a sort of “reverse surge pricing” by discounting their Florida departures. With wind speeds of over 185 mph, Irma is bigger and stronger than Hurricane Andrew, which devastated Florida in 1992. Insurable liabilities in Florida have risen sharply since then due to the development of the real estate sector (including, some have observed, a handful of Trump Organization properties including the Mar-a-Lago resort). And if that weren’t enough, storm front Jose is also forming farther out. Fortune
• Fischer’s Exit Increases Fed Leadership Uncertainty
Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer, 73, said he will step down in October “for personal reasons,” with nearly three years of his board term still to run. President Donald Trump thus has the opportunity to stamp his authority on the Fed by nominating both a new chair and vice chair within five months (Janet Yellen’s term is up in February). Trump’s nominee for the vacant head of banking supervision post, Randal Quarles, has his Senate confirmation hearing today. Quarles is known to be more sympathetic to the idea of lightening some of the sector’s post-crisis regulatory burden—a policy that Fischer opposed. Perhaps in order to quell speculation, sources “familiar with the matter” told The Wall Street Journal that Trump isn’t inclined to nominate Gary Cohn, his top economic adviser, to succeed Yellen. Fortune
• Trump Breaks With GOP To Keep Government Funded
President Trump threw his weight behind a Democratic proposal to attach emergency aid for Hurricane Harvey victims to measures to keep the government funded and its borrowing limit suspended until mid-December. The move was a calculated snub to Republican members of Congress: only hours before, House Speaker Paul Ryan had called the proposal “ridiculous” and “unworkable.” The Federal Emergency Management Agency was down to its last $1 billion and spending over $9 million an hour, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. The gambit raises the question of whether the president will use similar tactics to push through reforms to the tax, immigration, and health care systems. WSJ, subscription required
• House Passes Bill on Self-Driving Cars
The House approved a bipartisan bill that, if passed by the Senate, would create a federal framework for regulating self-driving cars and give companies racing to deploy the technology the ability to scale up more quickly. The so-called Self-Drive Act would allow tech companies, automakers, and startups to put as many as 100,000 autonomous vehicles on the road annually. Current law varies by state, but most states require self-driving vehicles to be equipped with steering wheels and pedals to control brakes and acceleration if they’re on public roads. Critics said the “rushed” vote threatens highway safety and will “leave a wild west without adequate safety protections for consumers.” Fortune
Around the Water Cooler
• Goldman Finds HNA Too Hot to Handle
Goldman Sachs suspended work on a planned fund-raising for Pactera, the outsourcing arm of China’s HNA Group, due to it failing to meet the bank’s due diligence requirements. HNA had only recently announced more detail on its ownership structure but had still left key questions about its beneficial ownership unanswered. Goldman is under pressure to clean up its act in Asia after sustaining reputational damage in the corruption scandal around Malaysian development bank 1MDB, a former client. Reuters
• HTC Slumps Amid Google Rumors
Shares in smartphone and VR-headset maker HTC fell more than 6.5% on a double-whammy of a sharp drop in sales and unconfirmed reports of defections by its smartphone R&D team to Google. The company said sales were down 54% year-on-year in August. The Taiwanese company has reportedly been looking at a range of strategic options in recent weeks. FT, metered access
• Facebook Is Still Making Shaky Ad Claims
Facebook faced fresh embarrassment over its advertising metrics, after Pivotal Research highlighted what appeared to be systematically overstated claims about the social media network’s demographic reach. Pivtol’s Brian Wieser pointed out that Facebook’s Adverts Manager tool promises a potential reach of 41 million 18- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., while recent census data says there are only 31 million people living in the U.S. within that age range. It also noted similar discrepancies with U.K. and Canadian census data. One melancholy consolation is that at least it overcharged the Russian accounts that spent $100,000 on spreading fake news through the site during last year’s election campaign. Fortune
• Mars Tries to Secure Life on Earth
The world’s largest chocolate maker took climate change into its own hands. Mars, the maker of Snickers, Twix, and M&Ms, pledged to invest $1 billion over the next few years on a sustainability drive that includes investment in renewable energy, food sourcing, cross-industry action groups, and farmers. CEO Grant Reid said the global supply chain needed “transformational, cross-industry collaboration” to fix it. Fortune
Summaries by Geoffrey Smith; firstname.lastname@example.org