It’s time to match profit with purpose

Professor Wendy Loretto, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School
Professor Wendy Loretto, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School
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Last week, more than 100 undergraduates at the University of Edinburgh Business School joined forces for two days to create new business ideas addressing today’s most pressing social issues. They aimed to create businesses with social value, and the results were astonishing.

From a private enterprise supporting loneliness in old age to a social enterprise tackling financial literacy, the ideas presented by tomorrow’s business leaders provided real hope for those who believe business can be a genuine force for social good.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The current generation have grown up in the shadow of the financial crisis of 2008, the War on Terror, and other seismic geo-political shifts. As such, attitudes towards the world of work and business have changed, and we have had to change with it. For example, from September all undergraduates will attend Global Challenges, a new core course to help them reflect on the key issues facing business and society today.

In recent years, the global corporate community has realised that embedding social value into their DNA can have a big impact on the bottom line – aiding recruitment, gaining trust and building reputation. Businesses are exercising social purposefulness in many ways, from investing in technology to setting up charitable foundations. The world of business can provide access to finance, resources and knowledge powerful enough to make a significant impact on society’s injustices.

That’s why we believe in investing in undergraduates. Whether setting up social enterprises, choosing careers with socially focused businesses or driving social change within traditional corporates, it’s in their hands to harness the power of business as a force for social good.

Professor Wendy Loretto, Dean of the University of Edinburgh Business School