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Discussion: Strategic Impact of Positive Social Change Initiatives

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There are many benefits, as well as potential risks for organizations considering integrating positive social change into their business strategy. Businesses can make a profit while meeting important social needs (Driver, 2012). While doing so, it is important to consider financial risks (Laureate, 2016b) and risks associated with causing unintended negative consequences (Wilburn & Wilburn, 2016).

Barton (Laureate, 2016b) suggests that allowing employees to volunteer in the community demonstrates a business’ commitment to supporting the community. For example, during a local park cleanup campaign company volunteers can wear their company’s shirts and caps to reiterate community support. The company may benefit as local community members return the favor by patronizing the company.

Implementing positive change will require investment and may not produce immediate financial gain. Barton (Laureate, 2016b) reminds us that although financial gains are not always measurable, providing community support pays dividends. For example, a company’s positive support will enhance its reputation and brand. It is also important to identify and assess the potential for unintended negative consequences (Wilburn & Wilburn, 2016). For example, a company may elect to collaborate with a local organization that distributes food to the homeless only to discover that their partner is stealing food and not providing support as it is intended.

There are cases when an organization experiences an unsuccessful implementation of a positive social change initiative. For example, in support of CSR efforts Gap outsourced manufacturing to a developing country to provide employment opportunities for the poor. Investigative reporters revealed that the factories selected were unsafe and hired children(Wilburn & Wilburn, 2016). The news resulted in public outrage, damage to the company’s reputation, and raised ethical concerns. According toDyer, Godfrey, Jensen, and Bryce (2016), society establishes ethical values by defining what is morally right or wrong. There are a number of steps that Gap could follow in the future while incorporating social change into their plans. Wilburn and Wilburn (2016) recommend a five-step “What Else?” process. The five steps are (1) ensure the goal aligns with the organization’s purpose; (2) describe stakeholders and their concerns; (3) describe possible effects on the system; (4) create short mini-scenarios; (5) and track probabilities and communicate change. For example, poor manufacturing conditions and use of child labor is not uncommon in developing countries. Gap should have acknowledged this risk and continuously tracked the probability of poor manufacturing and use of child labor. Upon discovery, management could take appropriate countermeasures to change manufacturers.


Driver, M. (2012). An interview with Michael Porter: Social entrepreneurship and the

transformation of capitalism. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 11(3), 421

–431. doi:10.5465/amle.2011.0002B

Dyer, J. H., Godfrey, P., Jensen, R., & Bryce, D. (2016). Strategic management: Concepts and

tools for creating real world strategy.Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Laureate Education (Producer). (2016b). Business strategy and innovation: Effecting positive

social change [Video file]. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Wilburn, K. M. & Wilburn, H. R. (2016). Asking “what else?” to identify unintended negative

consequences. Bloomington, IN: Kelley School of Business. Retrieved from


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