Working Toward a Better Tomorrow
Society’s challenges cross disciplines, cultures, and national borders, and will only be solved by working together.
Every company has the capability to be a force of good in the world. While some companies have taken concrete actions to lessen their impact on the environment or improve conditions for their employees, many have yet to take the first step. How those businesses engage with the world, and how the world engages with them, must change.
The Business for a Better World Center’s (B4BW) work focuses on five areas that will help usher in a new era where business becomes society’s committed partner.
Tomorrow’s leaders should define and deliver value to all stakeholders. To prepare them for that responsibility, we need to remake business education. B4BW shows students the critical role that business plays in addressing the world’s problems by providing hands-on, thought-provoking, and distinctive learning experiences, including:
Impact Fellows Program
The Impact Fellows Program is B4BW's bold and pioneering approach to engage students from groups traditionally underrepresented in business. Over 40 percent of Mason’s students are first-generation college students. Thirty percent are Pell Grant recipients, and over half identify as something other than white-American. The Impact Fellows Program delivers an innovative social impact curriculum tailored to these students through a wrap-around two-year cohort-based experience that builds leadership and changemaking skills, fosters personal value evaluation and development, and supports retention of these learners.
The program began in fall 2020 with a cohort of 30 students. If you are a Mason student interested in learning more about this program, visit the program page here.
Studying Social Change to Advance Community Organizations
The Office of the Provost’s Summer Team Impact Projects tackle global questions and challenges within all three areas of Mason impact research activities, community engagement and civic learning, and entrepreneurship). Faculty present a question to a team of undergraduate students who work throughout the summer to create a solution and then present their findings, their action plan, or their prototype to the Mason community.
B4BW was awarded a $60,000 Summer Team Impact Project grant in 2021 to address the question, “How do approaches to social change result in meaningful advancement of community organization goals with people, planet, and prosperity in mind?”
To answer this question, the Center brought together business and liberal arts students for a summer bootcamp, where students worked with faculty, graduate students, and community partners to understand a specific organization’s context and challenges, articulate a specific research question aligned with a community need, investigate theories and methods to address social change including market-based solutions, and generate a proposal to present to the community organization and at the Office of Student Scholarship, Creative Activities, and Research’s (OSCAR’s) fall 2021 celebration of scholarship. The project emphasizes work around two of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: SDG 3, Good Health and Wellbeing; and SDG 10, Reducing Inequalities.
Developing a Better World Curriculum
In 2021, B4BW was awarded a Curriculum Impact Grant from the Office of the Provost. Curriculum Impact Grants look for teams of faculty, staff, and administrators to design innovative multidisciplinary curriculum at either the undergraduate or graduate level. The Center is leading a team to design an innovative new minor called Business for a Better World. The effort will create a new cross-disciplinary minor within the School of Business focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Classes will allow students to explore the idea that business can help solve today’s global challenges through cross-sector collaboration.
The minor will offer a transformative learning experience for tomorrow’s global leaders by integrating expertise from a variety of disciplines to diagnose problems and design solutions for some of the world’s most significant challenges.
In addition to developing the Business for a Better World Minor, the Center is leading the School of Business’ efforts to develop several new courses on topics like social impact and stakeholder capitalism.
Global Study Abroad
B4BW supports the School of Business’ many study abroad offerings. The Center has also established trips based on the Honey Bee Initiative.
Mason is a premier research university, and knowledge generation is where we excel. With the help of students and faculty from across the university, B4BW aspires to be a hub of research activity that leads to action and impacts society. Our work in this area includes:
Studying Honey Bee Health
The honey bee, a naturalized species of pollinator, is responsible for pollinating approximately $15 billion worth of crops annually in the United States alone. As humans modify the natural landscape, understanding honey bees’ resource base and what what promotes healthy populations is important both economically and in terms of food security. If bees don’t thrive, neither do we.
In partnership with Fairfax County and Covanta, B4BW's Honey Bee Initiative has established 24 hives on a former landfill to assess the connections between honey bees and their local environment, specifically with regard to the pollen resources they use and contaminants that they might introduce to their hives.
This work will help us learn whether honey bee hives are sufficiently provisioned throughout the seasons and on what sort of plants they rely. It will also inform the degree to which heavy metal contamination is in the bees' foraging range. This knowledge will help inform action that ensures continued health for this important species.
Measuring Corporate Contributions to Society
Whether they reside in business or academia, the next generation of change leaders must be able to apply knowledge and data gleaned from across all stakeholders of a business to inform and assess business decisions, corporate governance, and policy making.
B4BW is creating the Stakeholder Value Creation Index to articulate, define, and measure the value our public corporations create. With an eye toward eventual publication to influence industry leaders and policy makers, the index will also provide a holistic, objective, and relevant set of measures that will assist both students and faculty in their research and teaching.
Academic Research and Presentations
B4BW engages in a variety of research that advances our mission and vision. Contributions include:
- Academic Paper: Gring-Pemble, Lisa and Germán Perilla. 2020. "Sustainable Beekeeping, Community Driven-Development, and Tri-Sector Solutions with Impact" Corporate Governance: The international journal of business in society. Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 359-372. https://doi.org/10.1108/CG-01-2020-0019
- Conference Presentation: Perilla, Germán: “Leveraging Partnerships for the SDGs,” Ashoka U Exchange, 18 March 2021
- Paper presentation: Gring-Pemble, Lisa and Anne Magro: “Business for a Better World Center: A Cross-Disciplinary Initiative at George Mason University,” University Global Compact Conference, 24 September 2020.
- Academic Paper: Gring-Pemble, Lisa. 2020. “Sustainable Beekeeping as Social Innovation Education,” In Becoming a Changemaker Institution: A guidebook for how your campus can increase its relevance and resilience and lead in a rapidly changing world, Eds. Angie K. Fuessel and Beeta Ansari. Ashoka U.
B4BW’s Lunchtime Conversations engage and connect with expertise available across George Mason University. These informal sessions are a place to share unique perspectives and knowledge on topics surrounding the intersection of business and sustainability to drive research, curriculum, and policy action at Mason.
The Center hosts three Lunchtime Conversations each semester. Conversations during the 2020-2021 academic year focused on Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Sessions showcased Mason researchers focused on the many facets of this critical issue.
B4BW connects experts who have changed their companies and industries for the better with tomorrow’s problem solvers: our students.
Ideas to Impact Program
Bringing leaders to campus, and to our students specifically, is central to B4BW’s mission. It is essential for students to hear from and have access to those who are changing the world. Our Ideas to Impact program brings social impact and sustainability thought leaders from top-tier organizations directly to our students. Speakers during the 2020-2021 academic year included Kerry Kennedy of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Foundation; authors Robert Putnman and Shaylyn Romney Garrett; and Dymphna van der Lans and Jean-Louis Racine of the Clean Cooking Alliance. Watch recordings of past events and learn more about upcoming speakers on our events page.
Stakeholder Capitalism Discussion Series
The idea that the sole purpose of a corporation is to make money for its shareholders—or “shareholder capitalism”—is currently experiencing a long-overdue reexamination and upheaval in favor of “stakeholder capitalism”—the belief that corporations should be oriented to serve the interests of all of their stakeholders. B4BW launched the Stakeholder Capitalism Discussion Series in 2021 to explore stakeholder capitalism and how it can be applied to businesses in a world rife with persistent inequality, social injustice, racial bias, and environmental degradation, and to drive stakeholder capitalism further into the mainstream, thereby changing the trajectory of our corporations. Watch recordings of past events and learn more about upcoming speakers on our events page.
Nothing has ever changed simply because people talked about it. Changing the world requires engaging with it, which is why B4BW pursues and develops action-oriented partnerships with organizations and communities near and far.
Creating Financially Accessible Internships
Internships have become increasingly important as gateways to employment post-graduation, but remain out of reach for many. Often offered with low, or no pay, or in locations that require students to incur additional temporary living expenses, inability to access internships disproportionately impacts students from underserved populations.
To address the barriers inherent in the current internship system,B4BW, working in tandem with the School of Business’ Office of Career Services, established the Internship Access Award. The program provides funding to students that makes it possible for them to accept unpaid or low-paid internships. It also features fellowships to support students completing unpaid internships throughout the academic year and summer, as well as grants to cover living expenses while students complete unpaid internships away from home. In 2020 – 2021, through the ongoing generosity of our donors, we awarded $15,000 to 11 School of Business students.
The 2021 School of Business Internship Access Award was made possible through the generosity of alumni donors, the Center, Management Advisory Board, Fairfax County Economic Development Council, Women in Business Initiative, and the Office of Career Services.
Improving Health Access for All
In June 2021, Kaiser Permanente, one of the nation’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans, committed $175,000 to advance George Mason University’s community health initiatives.
The grant, jointly supporting the Mason and Partners Clinics (MAP Clinics) and B4BW, enables Mason to serve as the lead anchor partner in a collaborative initiative to remove barriers to health and expand access for residents in the Bailey’s Crossroads/Culmore neighborhood of Fairfax County. Learn more.
B4BW's Honey Bee Initiative (HBI) operates in both Perú and Colombia, with the goal of using sustainable beekeeping to empower local communities and drive economic development. In Perú, HBI worked with community beekeepers to establish vertical hives, expand bee colonies, create a market for honey and bee-related products, and integrate forest conservation into the community culture.
HBI’s work in Colombia—designed to empower communities through sustainable beekeeping—was recognized in 2020 as the 15th best overall social and environmental project in Latin America and the Caribbean by the Latinoamérica Verde awards.
Developing Social Business
Modeled off of the success of the Honey Bee Initiative, B4BW is planning a social incubator to affect social change by creating projects and social businesses that create employment and generate income for people at or below the poverty level. The Center plans to provide mentoring, physical space, and seed money.
Lasting change is only possible through collaboration. B4BW understands the power of working together, and we are working to build a coalition of partner schools and organizations to help us accomplish our ambitious goals. Our partners include:
The Academy of Business in Society
The Academy of Business in Society (ABIS) is a global network of over 100 companies and academic institutions whose expertise, commitment, and resources are leveraged to invest in a more sustainable future for business in society. ABIS' mission is to advance the role of business in society through research and education. Center leadership and the Dean of the School of Business are active members in ABIS.
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a global nonprofit association, connects educators, students, and business to achieve a common goal: to create the next generation of great leaders. When educational, professional, and business organizations become members of AACSB, they are part of a movement united to improve the quality of business education around the world. The Center has made several presentations to AACSB over the last few years, and in 2019 we were recognized as an Innovation that Inspires by AACSB.
Ashoka U is an initiative of Ashoka, the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs, and takes an institutional change approach to impact the education of millions of students. Mason has a long history of changemaker education. In fact, as one of the original four Changemaker Campuses, Mason’s relationship with Ashoka U dates back to 2008. Center Co-Executive Director, Lisa Gring-Pemble, serves as an Ashoka change leader at Mason.
AshokaU’s premier annual event, The Exchange, is a gathering for social impact educators—a home for creative problem solvers, learners, listeners, and visionaries. We were proud to have been selected to host the 2021 Exchange. More than 525 people, representing more than 100 universities and more than 30 countries, participated in the conference. Dean Maury Peiperl and Provost Mark Ginsberg offered welcoming remarks and President Greg Washington was a keynote speaker. Mason hosted eight panels with more than 50 Mason faculty, students, and staff participating in the conference.
European Foundation for Management Development
The European Foundation for Management Development (EFMD) is a global nonprofit dedicated to management development. EFMD is a network for schools and companies that aim to develop socially responsible leaders and managers looking for opportunities to connect with each other.
Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative
The Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) is an international, multi-sector community that exists to catalyze the development of globally responsible leadership and practice in organization and societies worldwide. GRLI facilitates an inclusive and collective call for deep systemic change across three domains: how we live and make a living, how we learn, and how we lead.
The Dean of the School of Business and Center Executive Directors are members of the GRLI Deans and Directors Cohort. Additionally, in 2021 B4BW joined GRLI as an Associate Organization.
Principles for Responsible Management Education
The Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME) is a United Nations-supported initiative founded in 2007 as a platform to raise the profile of sustainability in schools around the world and to equip today's business students with the understanding and ability to deliver change tomorrow. The Center has been instrumental in leading the Business School’s membership in PRME since 2014 and Champion status since 2018. Center Co-Executive Director, Anne Magro, served on the PRME Advisory Council for two years.
Sustainable Development Solutions Network
The UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) was established in 2012 by the UN Secretary-General and mobilizes global scientific and technological expertise to promote practical solutions for sustainable development. SDSN promote integrated approaches to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, through education, research, policy analysis, and global cooperation. The Center has been involved in supporting and leading Mason’s involvement with the UNSDSN
United Nations Global Compact
The United Nations Global Compact aims to mobilize a global movement of sustainable companies and stakeholders to create the world we want. They provide a principle-based framework, best practices, resources, and networking events to help revolutionize how companies do business responsibly and keep commitments to society. On July 1, 2012, then Mason President Cabrera committed Mason to support the UN Global Compact and Center leadership has spearheaded Mason’s relationship with a number of UN related initiatives including PRME and the University Global Coalition. The UN 17 global goals are the bedrock of the Center’s work.