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Systematic Review: Business-Driven Social Change

Companies can change people’s behaviour to benefit society and the environment, foster goodwill, and create new market opportunities.

Businesses as Agents for Change

Companies have the power to change people’s behaviour. These behavioural changes can benefit society and the environment. Such social innovation fosters goodwill among employees, customers, and community members. And, it can create new industries and open up new markets. Many examples exist of business’s positive social impact, and how social responsibility improves the bottom line.

This systematic review by Dr. Ute Stephan, Dr. Malcolm Patterson, and Ciara Kelly, all at the University of Sheffield, identifies how business can help change people’s behaviours to benefit society and the environment.

For the leaders interested in creating positive social impact, the critical questions are:

  • How can my business change collective behaviour and improve society?

  • What mechanisms can my business leverage to help create positive social change?

  • How can my business organize and launch a successful change project?

This systematic review of 123 applied and academic studies from 1992 to 2012 contains the most comprehensive and credible evidence on business-driven social change. It defines social change, highlights the challenges for businesses aspiring to create positive social change, and responds with a framework outlining three components necessary for any social change initiative: motivation, opportunity, and capability.

The 108-page systematic review also identifies 19 mechanisms for creating social change, and describes 13 effective organizing practices for social change projects.

Finally, it illustrates social change strategies, and shows readers how to craft and manage an effective change strategy over time.

Who Should Read the Report

Though written for an academic audience, directors of philanthropy, community relations, corporate citizenship, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) can use this report to influence people’s behaviour in a way that benefits society and the environment.

Social entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders can use this report to foster goodwill, develop new markets, and even new industries. Anyone who wants to lead social innovation can use this research to help spark social change in their communities.


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