Business is entering a new phase in its relationship with society. Shell and Dow Corning are working with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to develop and market affordable, safe, and efficient cookstoves for the world’s poor (of whom nearly 2 million worldwide die per year due to prolonged exposure to smoke from traditional stoves). Abbott and Partners in Health are building a food-processing plant in Haiti that has local employees make and distribute a high-protein, high-calorie fortified peanut-based spread developed to combat malnutrition. And leading food-and-beverage companies are marketing cheap water-purification kits and tackling water shortages around the world.
What’s common across these diverse efforts? Each company is revving its innovation engine to tackle one of the world’s big social, economic, and/or environmental challenges.