The Business Opportunity in Solving the World’s Big Problems

What does chocolate have to do with addressing some of the world’s greatest challenges? More than you might think.

Consider Mars Incorporated, the sixth-largest private company in the United States. While its competitors are worrying about the availability of cocoa, Mars is confident in its stable and robust supply of the crop for the long term. That’s because the company partners with nonprofit agencies that certify small-scale cocoa famers around the world. These agencies ensure that farmers get healthy crop yields and receive a premium price on their cocoa. And they ensure that human rights are upheld and the environment is protected. These partnerships are good for smallholder farming communities, good for the environment—and good for Mars, which has mitigated a key risk in its supply chain. The company’s goal: a cocoa supply that is 100% certified by 2020.

Mars’s approach brings to life the power of what we call total societal impact. TSI is the sum of all the ways a company influences society, our communities, and the environment through its fundamental business strategy and its core assets, capabilities, and operations. Focusing on TSI means integrating social and environmental considerations into the real work of business: supply chains, product design and manufacturing processes, and distribution channels.

Certainly, the idea of simultaneously creating profit and societal benefits is not altogether new. But the fact remains that most companies focus almost exclusively on total shareholder return.  TSI can and should stand with TSR as an important driver of corporate strategy and decision making. BCG’s extensive study of more than 300 companies shows how a focus on TSI can improve corporate performance and how some leading companies are making it work. (See Total Societal Impact: A New Lens on Strategy, BCG report, October 2017.)

Business Needs to Step Up

The Financial Rewards of a Focus on TSI

Success Stories

Changing the Corporate Mindset

Wendy Woods, Senior Partner & Managing Director, Global Leader, Social Impact practice, Boston

More: BCG