Social innovation champions: helping your systems and planet thrive

We live in a range of systems, both natural and manmade. The systems we have created are in place to help our societies thrive: government, health, economy and transportation. Many have benefitted from these systems, but a large number of the global population have been left out, resulting in poverty, homelessness, unemployment and discrimination. Throughout my time in India and at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) meeting, it was made clear that many of our systems are unsustainable and have damaged natural systems, endangering species, causing a loss of biodiversity and resulting in ozone depletion.

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In Chennai I witnessed a range of complex problems, from congestion to homelessness. I realised that these problems represented a failure of systems and we all have a role to play in fixing them. The private sector has the capacity to make a tremendous difference through social innovation, which is the result of intentional work of people trying to make positive change happen, by addressing problems at their roots, while simultaneously delivering business value and growth. Social innovation can come in many forms, it can be a process, a product, or program that profoundly changes the way a system operates, reducing the vulnerability of the people and environments in that system. As a consequence of a positive social innovation, many elements within a system can grow more resilient and increase their ability to deal with challenges in the future. Of course, innovation doesn’t just happen and implementation can often be just as hard as the problems they are trying to solve, but ultimately, businesses must help to ensure that the systems they operate in are supported by their own internal systems, helping our planet thrive.

At the WBCSD I was able to learn more about social innovation from future business leaders and understand how it seeks to combat social challenges in a way that also generates tangible business benefits. Implementing Social Innovation Champions across business departments can help build future markets and sales, strengthen supply chains and attract top talent and encourage retention. Champions within departments can help transform internal systems to operate in a more sustainable and efficient manner, whilst also driving creative thinking and inspiring future leaders. Reflecting on the discussions held at the WBCSD, I see huge potential in the area of Social Innovation Champions, as they would be change agents within organisations and will have the power to shape behaviours and shift mind sets to become more climate conscious.

We must be champions for change.

Written by Callum Hudson

Inspired by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development

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