Social innovation is not about philanthropic efforts; it is about the sustainable growth of your company.
By Thomas Osburg, Director Europe Corporate Affairs, Intel & Board Director, CSR Europe and EABIS
If we trust Google as an indicator for quantitative relevance, the search term "Social Innovation" produces 388 million hits, while the term CSR results in 323 million hits.
Leading business schools like INSEAD and Stanford have established Centers for Social Innovation for many years now. But what is Social Innovation really?
Is it a new concept? Is it a new label for current CSR activities (CSR 3.0)? Why is it becoming a much stronger element of European companies' agenda? And how can it relate to Enterprise 2020? Despite the increased attention, the concept of social innovation remains steeped in questions and uncertainty.
There are countless definitions, for example, and they all differ substantially from each other. But that should not keep anyone awake at night, because social innovation is more of a mindset and strategic direction rather than a defined concept.
At the very core, social innovation holds the potential to transform economies, to fuel innovation and to improve the lives of people around the world.
Social Innovation at Intel: Three Ways to Look At It
At Intel, we have three different areas that we focus on: one is around social entrepreneurship where we focus on creating social enterprises. The second is developing technology solutions to tackle social challenges. And the third concerns partnering and creating an enabling ecosystem under which social innovation can flourish.
That last piece – partnering and creating an enabling environment for social innovation - is key for me because all companies within the Enterprise 2020 Initiative, regardless of size, country or industry, can support such an approach. Essentially, the main role for companies to support smart, sustainable and inclusive growth lies in enabling solutions within a large eco-system.
A lot of projects and initiatives are already happening and successfully put in place across Europe. In fact, more than we can count but while that is encouraging, we need to graduate adding project after project to solve a social problem to a real paradigm shift within existing business models.
Within a cross-sectorial partnership model (Private, Public, NGO), companies are in a key position to foster this change toward business models that create both economic and social impact. This is not about philanthropic efforts; it is about the sustainable growth of your company.
Key Areas for Innovation
Areas like capacity building, education (from school curricula to engaging with leading thinkers in business schools) and responsible business behaviour, i.e., as highlighted in the SEA-Awards, are crucial areas waiting for our attention. Intel, for example, recently launched the EBS-Intel Summer School, which is integrated into a worldwide approach – instead of being a standalone event – with a number of other strategic initiatives that aim to foster business models that combine economic and social impact.
Most companies are not social enterprises and most likely will not be anytime in the future.
The concept of CSR has moved on from voluntary contributions beyond the core business to an integral part of all business processes in recent years. If we were to truly think longer term, fostering and implementing social innovations with a clear impact for both the company and society, is the logical next step.
And maybe the ultimate proof of a company’s responsible business operations with value creation for all.
More from Enterprise 2020:
Only Age-Friendly Business Can Be the Business of the Future
The Sustainable City: Opening New Doors For Collaboration and Corporate Social Innovation!
Enterprise 2020: Don’t Stifle Your Corporate Social Entrepreneur