Capitalism has had a pretty good run. Just ask Buffett, Bezos, Zuckerberg, and the Koch brothers. They, like the Vanderbilts, the Rockefellers, the Rothschilds, and the Gettys before them, have benefited from an economic system that brands winners and losers with green arrows pointing up and red arrows pointing down.
On a global scale, when it comes to accumulating nearly unfathomable wealth, a very small number of people’s arrows have pointed up, whereas more than half the planet’s population have arrows pointing down.
But the tides are shifting. Calls for a new economic model—one that closes the inequality gap and aligns with social good movements, such as the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—are ringing from the campaign trail in Des Moines to the Alpine peaks of Davos, where the 50th World Economic Forum takes place this week.
Enlightened CEOs know that these reform-minded calls for change have to be answered, and that the current model of capitalism is unsustainable. They also know that they can’t make empty promises: Siemens’s Joe Kaeser demonstrated in recent weeks how PR disasters can occur when CEOs overcommit on societal topics yet underdeliver. The question that remains for these executives, then, is how do we move from announcements into action?
There is a path forward: More and more companies are using their resources, expertise, and assets to develop new ways to take on social or environmental problems—solutions with a business model at…