YSB launches landmark research into Social 'Intra'preneurship at The World Economic Forum

YSB launches landmark research into Social 'Intra'preneurship at The World Economic Forum

January 22, 2020


Released at the World Economic Forum in Davos, our global study interviewed 50+ executives and social intrapreneurs (SIs) from almost 50 blue-chip multinationals, including IKEA, Morgan Stanley, BASF, Allianz, Renault, and SAP .


Today, at the World Economic Forum Yunus Social Business (YSB) released a global research study on social intrapreneurship (SI). The study was conducted by a consortium, led by YSB, along with partners Porticus, the World Economic Forum’s Schwab Foundation, and INSEAD’s Hoffmann Institute for Business and Society. More than 50 globally based executives and social intrapreneurs at multinational giants such as IKEA, Morgan Stanley, BASF, Renault, Novartis, Allianz, and SAP, were interviewed during the nine-month study.

Business as Unusual: How Social Intrapreneurs Can Turn Companies into a Force for Good” found that, while addressing important societal problems, SI also internally motivates employees and improves employee skill-sets (77%), increases business innovation (50%), and acts as a catalyst for positive corporate transformation (61%).

"The private sector needs to do more if the planet is to have any chance of achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” said Saskia Bruysten, our CEO and Co-Founder. “Ten years ago, CEOs had not yet grasped the role businesses have to play in the existential crisis our world is facing. Fortunately, now most of them do, and our hope is that business leaders can use our report to move from announcements to concrete action. Our report’s SI playbook will give them the hands-on tools they need to tackle the world’s most challenging problems through social intrapreneurship, while leveraging their own core business.”

The forensic work conducted in identifying and finding social intrapreneurs yielded an ecosystem of nearly 200 separate practitioners.

Additional key findings and takeaways from the study:

  • SI initiatives improve employee engagement, job satisfaction, employee skills, and talent attraction (77%). SI can be utilized as an HR secret weapon. In a highly competitive employment environment, attracting and retaining top-level talent, particularly the purpose-driven millennial demographic, is a high priority for companies.
  • For respondents who had C-Level buy-in at any stage, 76% described it as a key success driver for their SI initiative. C-Level executives and key decision-makers need to be aware of the most pressing social and environmental issues affecting their value chain.
  • Strategic alignment: 90% of the initiatives that had C-level buy in aligned with the core business of the company. The initiatives that struggled the most to get C-Level attention were the ones that were launched mostly as innovative CSR initiatives.
  • Measuring and evaluating the impact generated by SI initiatives is vital to fully assess the benefits to the company and society.
  • The power of purpose: Successful social intrapreneurs start with intrinsic motivation — 59% of intrapreneurs interviewed reported that they were inspired by their company’s explicit statement of purpose and values.

“The 50th Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum is focusing on stakeholder capitalism and how it can contribute to a more cohesive and sustainable world,” stated Francois Bonnici, CEO, Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. “For businesses to fully embody this, they need to use their capabilities and resources in cooperation with governments and civil society to address the key issues of this decade. This research brings hard evidence to show how it can be done, and the benefits to society and to the companies, and supports our own efforts as the Schwab Foundation in recognising Corporate Social Intrapreneurs as a new breed of leadership, bringing them as peers to CEOs and government leaders in Davos.”

“One of our most surprising findings was that the biggest obstacle to implementing a social initiative is internal hurdles,” said Bruysten, noting that 84% of interviewees reported internal obstacles were more challenging than external ones. “A study participant summed internal obstacles up best by calling them the ‘corporate immune system that attacks anything that doesn’t look like profit maximization’. That means, for example, that social intrapreneurs might have a tougher time getting internal buy-in and necessary resources than they would delivering medication or clean drinking water to rural Africa. CEOs who don’t take advantage of SIs are leaving massive opportunities on the table.”

“Business as Unusual: How Social Intrapreneurs Can Turn Companies into a Force for Good,” “The Social Intrapreneurs’ Playbook,” and 16 case studies from business leaders (such as Novartis, SAP, Morgan Stanley, and Total) are also available today for download here www.yunussb.com/business-as-unusual.

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