Fortune Magazine recently released a new “Change the World” list of businesses that are considered to be driving positive change in the world. There is a growing global momentum around the role of business in society, and whether the traditional capitalist approach of profit-maximisation is contributing to, rather than helping to solve, many of our social and environmental challenges.
According to Fortune, “[the list] is meant to shine a spotlight on companies that have made significant progress in addressing major social problems as a part of their core business strategy”.
Here’s the “top 10” as listed by Forbes:
- Vodafone and Safaricom
- Google (Alphabet)
- Jain Irrigation Systems
Further down the list are Grameen Bank, Patagonia, Unilever, Whole Foods, Ikea and Kickstarter.
Would you consider these are the companies that are “most changing the world?” As with all lists like these, it is easy to criticise rankings but this list, as it turns out, is not really a ranking at all.
Here’s the caveat by Fortune on how the list was put together: “This list is not meant to be a ranking of the overall ‘goodness’ of companies or of their ‘social responsibility’. Big corporations are complex operations that affect the world in myriad ways. The goal here is simply to shine a spotlight on instances where companies are doing good as part of their profit-making strategy, and to shed new light on the power of capitalism to improve the human condition.”
So how does Fortune evaluate the impact a business has for inclusion in their list?
Here’s their explanation: “To assemble our list, the editors of Fortune and FSG, a nonprofit social-impact consulting firm, reached out to dozens of business, academic, and nonprofit experts around the world, asking for their recommendations. Fortune and a joint team from FSG and the Shared Value Initiative then vetted more than 200 nominees. In our evaluation, we considered four criteria: the degree of business innovation involved, the measurable impact at scale on an important social challenge, the contribution of the shared-value activities to the company’s profitability and competitive advantage, and the significance of the shared value effort to the overall business.
From this explanation, it would appear that some degree of qualitative and/or quantitative evaluation has taken place (“measurable impact at scale…”?), rather than a subjective assessment of businesses that may appear to be just “doing good”. However, the list is “is entirely built on the judgment of a jury consisting of “dozens of experts” from all over the world and Fortune’s editors. By this it is clearly distinct from other major sustainability rankings, which are all purely data based.”
While it is laudable for a list like this is exist, and it is welcome to create awareness of businesses that are truly contributing to a better world, it would be more helpful and more useful if there was greater insight into why these businesses are “ranked” better than similar lists of companies ranked on sustainability, environmental impact or social impact.
My business Whole Kids is a B Corporation, and we use the B Lab’s “Best for the World” list as a reference point and knowledge base for how we could improve our own business practices and processes, environmental and social impact, and organisational culture.I believe there should be more lists like Fortune’s and more insights into what makes these companies better at what they do than others so that other businesses can learn and benefit from their innovation, knowledge and impact.
Keep up the good work, Fortune, but please….more insights and rigour with your selection process.