Bill Novelli speaking at the World Social Marketing Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Bill Novelli, founder of Business for Impact gave the keynote address at the 2019 World Social Marketing Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. Novelli discussed his social marketing expertise to drive social change.

“When we started Business for Impact nearly a decade ago, one of our students – in learning about business doing well by doing good, remarked, ‘Especially with issues like the climate, there’s a huge business opportunity there, and there’s going to be a huge market for solving it.’ Earlier, we were relegated to charity or do-gooder-ism, but we now know it can also make you money.

The public is concerned about companies’ impact on the environment. But at the same time, the public has come to expect, even demand that companies do good – to take a positive stand on social issues, to support communities and to invest in causes and nonprofits.

Companies are moving along the continuum toward greater corporate social responsibility, or better stated, doing well b doing good and integrating social and environmental strategies into their core businesses. There are good reasons for doing this, from profit to cost savings, employee satisfaction and engagement, attracting talented new employees, like our Georgetown students, competitive advantage and license to operate.”

View the full keynote address.

Georgetown McDonough (new window) MBA students interested in embracing environmental, social, and governance programs now have the option of a new MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business. The Certificate, available to both Full-Time and Flex MBA students starting this season, will prepare graduates to address the social and environmental challenges facing the business world. They’ll understand how to integrate sustainability into all business functions and continually respond to shifts in consumer demand, employee interest, industry volatility, and more.

Read the full article.

Fink’s pledges — including a “commitment to accountability,” proxy pressure on boards and actions to avoid thermal fossil fuels — “have teeth” compared to a high-level commentary on sustainability only a year earlier, said Leslie Crutchfield, executive director at Georgetown University’s Business for Impact center. “Yes, more-progressive advocates for [environmental, social and governance] investing will say BlackRock is late to the parade, but this [year’s letter] is not lip service.”

Read the full article.

Things are changing, and for the better – for the betterment of corporations, for their employees and for society.  In our Business for Impact center at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, two of our key operating principles are that business can and should be a powerful force for good, and that complex societal problems can only be solved by leaders working effectively across sectors: private public and civil society. Bill Novelli, founder of Business for Impact shares three changes currently occurring in social impact work:

  1. The role of private sector in advancing people, planet, and profit
  2. A broader application of social marketing
  3. Exciting new opportunities to carve out meaningful careers in social impact

Let’s take advantage of all this to make a real dent in the universe.

Read the full article.

Young people, who tend to be politically progressive, are being confronted with the ascendancy of conservative movements in many countries, which is pushing them toward activism. And they are using social-media tools to mobilize large numbers of youths to protest quickly. Those factors set them apart from previous generations of youth activists, says Leslie Crutchfield, executive director of Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and author of How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t.

Read the full article.

DTN photo by Joel Reichenberger

Matt McKenna, executive in residence at Georgetown University’s Business for Impact, presented at the 13th annual DTN Ag Summit to explain why rural America continues to struggle to attract financial investors and what venture capital firms are looking for.

“I don’t blame the investment itself. I don’t blame the entrepreneurs. I don’t blame bankers. What I blame is a disconnect between the financial resources and the information available and the awareness of it,” McKenna said. “That fear and that wariness (about venture capital) is largely attributable to a lack familiarity, to a feeling that — what am I going to lose, as opposed to what am I going to gain? And the way to make that conversion is by education, experience and awareness.”

Read the full article.

As gridlock persists in addressing our nation’s critical infrastructure challenges – America’s roads, bridges and railways – a similar, yet vastly underreported set of challenges exist with our natural infrastructure: namely, the loss of our large privately-owned working forests. Consider the following: 36 million acres of forestland have disappeared over the past 30 years. Another 37 million more acres are at risk of fragmentation and development. It’s quietly becoming an irreversible environmental and economic crisis for communities across the country.

As companies competing in the 21st century embrace environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs and integrate these strategies throughout their businesses, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business is launching an MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business to prepare graduates to address urgent environmental and societal challenges that affect companies’ operations and business models. 

The certificate will be open to both Full-time and Flex MBA Program students in the spring of 2020. It offers students the opportunity to hone their ability to lead and manage organizations that are both profitable and sustainable through the lens of ESG.

“Companies understand the need to incorporate sustainability approaches into all business functions in response to changing consumer demand, shifting employee interests, increased volatility in supply chains, greater exposure to public scrutiny, and other factors,” said Vishal Agrawal, Provost’s Distinguished Lapeyre Family Associate Professor and academic director of the certificate. “It is imperative that our MBA students understand how to assess and identify these challenges and opportunities as they assume management and leadership positions after graduation.”  

The MBA Program developed this interdisciplinary certificate in collaboration with Agrawal and the school’s Business for Impact initiative. The development of the certificate was partially supported by a grant from Georgetown University’s 2019 Laudato Si’ Fund.

“A heightened curricular focus on sustainable business supports Georgetown McDonough’s goal to educate students to be responsible business leaders,” said Paul Almeida, dean and William R. Berkley Chair. “The certificate reflects Georgetown McDonough’s focus on educating our students in ways that can help them enhance their own success, help businesses achieve their goals and at the same time make the world a better place.”

Students who elect to enroll in the certificate program will take a 10.5-credit sequence of integrated MBA core and elective courses to build understanding of challenges and opportunities related to business sustainability and how to address them. Upon graduation from the MBA Program, students will receive a notation on their official university transcript along with a certificate of completion.

The school has two elective courses that are fundamental to the program:

  • Environmentally Sustainable Operations and Business Models, which takes on a business-oriented perspective by focusing on voluntary or economically motivated sustainability considerations and initiatives.
  • Corporate Social Responsibility, which focuses on the relationship between business, society, and the environment, and its evolution to ESG in its most current form.

MBA students will be able to apply for the program starting January 2020. For more information, visit this website

Matt McKenna, with Georgetown University’s School of Business, explaining why large investment firms shy away from investing in rural water projects.

Listen to the full article.

As gridlock persists in addressing our nation’s critical infrastructure challenges – America’s roads, bridges and railways – a similar, yet vastly underreported set of challenges exist with our natural infrastructure: namely, the loss of our large privately-owned working forests. Consider the following: 36 million acres of forestland have disappeared over the past 30 years. Another 37 million more acres are at risk of fragmentation and development. It’s quietly becoming an irreversible environmental and economic crisis for communities across the country.

Working forests provide us with clean air to breathe and clean water to drink. They support species diversity and generate more than 8.5 million jobs in the forest products and outdoor recreation industries. Perhaps even more important, they are an essential part of our nation’s efforts to address climate change, sequestering 12-15% of the United States’ annual carbon emissions.

As a country, we need to keep these forests intact and create a pathway for their permanent conservation as sustainable, working forests – and fast. This is where the bond markets come into play. In today’s economy, they are particularly good at identifying recurring streams of cash flow, risk adjusting and lending against them. Public policy isn’t a viable solution for a number of reasons – particularly state budget priorities that result in forest protection being an afterthought. According to the Institute of International Finance, total green and sustainability debt issuance in 2019 is projected to double levels from 2017. It will be nearly four times the level of issuance compared to 2016. So why not harness the bond market to help acquire these assets when they come up for sale in order to buy the time required to work out a permanent solution?

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a commercial proposition, but one defined by the non-profit sector. It has found a way to tap into the investment grade bond market and help re-engineer the markets to protect forests and stem the pace of loss. An abundance of capital and at-risk working forestlands, combined with a low-interest rate environment, squarely works in favor of conservation solutions that investors are gravitating toward. We must build on this.

Consider the example of The Conservation Fund, an Arlington, VA-based nonprofit that recently issued the first-ever green bond for conservation – a $150 million ten-year investment-grade offering. It provides a glimpse into how we might protect these forests. Investors received a market yield (thanks mostly to the revenue from sustainable tree harvesting) and the Fund received critical capital to accelerate their purchase of high conservation value forests when they become for sale. Once acquired, the Conservation Fund works with public agencies to put in place conservation easements that lock in the environmental and local economic benefits associated with working forests. Moreover, by combining philanthropic capital with the bond proceeds, there is a real chance to achieve impact at scale that is truly significant in moving the needle on climate change and rural economic development.

The power of the capital markets to leverage philanthropy and government action is real. We can achieve permanent, tangible results on the ground at the speed and magnitude these great challenges demand. The world needs this kind of innovation, bringing the strength of the markets to bear on the greatest land use challenge in America today. While the world waits for governments to align their policies and practices to address the climate crisis, this is something permanent we can do right now. In short, we buy critical time. Let’s seize upon it.

Robert Bonnie, Executive in Residence at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University, served as Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the Obama Administration. Matthew McKenna was a senior official at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and currently leads the Rural Opportunity Initiative at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

How Change Happens explains why some of the most significant 21st century shifts happened. By studying the movements behind many important causes—from LGBT marriage equality and tobacco control, to gun rights expansion, acid rain reduction and more, author Leslie Crutchfield explores how society came to celebrate gay weddings and ban smoking in public, and at the same time allow guns to be carried in most U.S. states, and friends won’t let each other drive drunk. The answer to why some movements succeed while others don’t is not what you think.  

According to Leslie Crutchfield and her team at Georgetown, who have crunched the numbers and compared the data, “There’s no real recipe for social change, no ‘movement in a box’ that we can put in place to create a more equitable, just society” (ix). But there is good news: These researchers have identified six strategies that “seemed to distinguish the effective movements from the others”:

  1. Strong grassroots
  2. Builds momentum state-by-state 
  3. Changes hearts and policy 
  4. Partners with “Adversarial Allies” 
  5. Partners with Corporations
  6. “Leader-full” (12-14)

Read full article.

A strategic planning process involving all members of the Portion Balance Coalition (PBC) resulted in our work being grounded with three key strategic pillars: 1) Individual Empowerment; 2) Food Landscape; and 3) Collaborative Learning, Sharing & Amplifying. Together, these strategic focus areas combine to define our theory of change: activating consumers to create demand and acceptance for balanced food portions, enabling industry to respond to the demand.

“The solution here can’t be solved by one sector alone, we’d all be talking past each other,” says Ty, who works at Georgetown University’s business school as the coalition’s project director. The group’s diversity makes it uniquely powerful among previous efforts; it’s also a powder keg. Still, members of the coalition think it’s worth a shot.

Read full article.

“It’s a good sign for the category, we are all collectively growing,” said Seth Goldman, executive chairman of Beyond Meat, when asked about new alternative meat products during a recent interview at Georgetown University’s Business for Impact, part of the McDonough School of Business.

Read full article.

You’ve heard about portion control, but what is portion balance? Stephanie Ho, Diane Ty, Portion Balance Coalition leader and senior partner at Business for Impact, and Stephenie Fu, CNPP, discuss why diverse partners are working together to define portion balance.

Listen to full article.

Los Angeles officials are considering banning all e-cigarettes and vaping devices in the city, one of the most extreme proposals yet to curb a nationwide outbreak of lung illnesses linked to vaping.

“We really did get the rates down pretty low, and then this e-cigarette thing happened and it all kind of blew up again,” said Gael O’Sullivan, an expert in health marketing at the Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. “As unfortunate as these illnesses or deaths are, it’s a tipping point where it really is a public health emergency.”

Read full article.

Matt McKenna, a founder of Georgetown University’s Rural Opportunity Initiative and Executive in Residence, shared with Agri-Pulse to why rural areas need more, not less government funding. ROI aims to serve rural American communities by driving financially and socially-sustainable rural development. It has been well-established that rural businesses lag behind their urban counterparts in terms of venture and early growth capital investment, and accessing debt and operating capital. “You can’t expect people to move where the opportunities are, you have to bring the opportunities to the people,” says McKenna.

At the same time, private investors are eager to identify and support rural growth opportunities, but most are not aware of what is available, and often the deals are misaligned with traditional investment models. The investor experience in U.S. rural communities in some ways mirrors that of impact investors in search of deals overseas in developing regions, where the amount of capital is more robust than the pipeline of deals, and a mismatch exists between the levels and kinds of returns investors seek, and what small and growing businesses can offer. 

Read full article.

Many MBA programs across the nation have noticed a steep rise in social impact interest and continue to respond to the growing interest in social innovation. Stanford Graduate School of Business reports more than 90% of the 488 Stanford GSB MBA and specialty business master’s students took a course related to social innovation or social impact.

At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Business for Impact believes solving our world’s most complex challenges requires collaboration across sectors – public, private, and nonprofit. Business must be at the table in order to succeed. The initiative creates partnerships with business, government, and non-profit leaders to co-create solutions and drive positive impact.

With more than 100 current Business for Impact student leaders, Georgetown students have access to additional course electives and hands-on experience working with external partners in the field.

Read full article.

The Global Social Enterprise Initiative (GSEI), founded in 2011 by Bill Novelli at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, is now Business for Impact. Our dedication to solving the world’s most pressing issues through delivering world-class education, impactful student experience, and direct action with global companies, nonprofits, and government leaders remains at the center of our work. We look forward to continue teaching and working with students and companies to manage the triple bottom line – people, planet, and profit.

Photo of farm with rolling hills in background.

For over a decade the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (NDPI) has supported communities throughout the Niger Delta in Nigeria by empowering them to create and sustain jobs, end conflicts, and build a better future. NDPI focuses less on giving direct grants and more on helping individuals access information, establish key relationships, and enhance their capacity to create change for themselves. NDPI is an independent nonprofit established by Chevron Corporation.

NDPI is based in the United States and works closely with its local, Nigerian-led partner, the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND). Together these organizations are dedicated to fostering peace, economic development, and advocacy/transparency in the region, while recognizing that each of these goals reinforces the other and creates a cycle that leads to stability and growth.

Business for Impact, part of the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University is working with NDPI to write and publish a case study identifying key lessons learned to-date and recommendations going forward to leverage the NDPI experience for further progress. In fall 2019, Business for Impact and NDPI will unveil the case study and share research findings at a public convening of cross-sector global development leaders at Georgetown University. The goal of the project is to develop new knowledge that can help NDPI and other leaders from corporate, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and government organizations to seek to improve their global development impact through public-private partnerships. The project has two main objectives:

  1. Research and Write a Case Study: The case study will look at its partners’ key activities over the past 10 years in the Niger Delta region, focusing on what has worked, what has not, and what approaches might be developed in the future to achieve greater impact.
  2. Produce Recommendations: These insights will include best practices and lessons learned that can be applied by NDPI, its partners, and other corporate, NGO, and government leaders seeking to employ public-private partnerships to create better futures for people living in emerging regions.

A case writer has been assigned to this project and will create a 20-30 page case study, which will include the following elements:

  • Documentation and description of NDPI and its NGO, government, and corporate partners’ key activities and approaches with a focus on the working relationships between local, national, and international partners
  • Analysis of the positive, neutral and negative aspects of these partnership approaches; and
  • Synthesis of patterns to inform the development of key findings, lessons learned, and recommendations for NDPI and its partners for future forward progress.

For more information, please contact Project Director Gael O’Sullivan at

Georgetown McDonough received high marks across the board in a new analysis of recruiter responses (new window) to the annual Bloomberg Businessweek MBA employer survey, scoring first in the world for having the best-trained graduates in addition to being listed in the top seven of all six categories.

“Georgetown McDonough’s alumni continue to raise the reputation of our MBA programs among employers as they arrive on day one prepared to make an impact,” said Prashant Malaviya, senior associate dean of MBA programs. “A key component of the Georgetown MBA is finding ways to integrate the changing needs of employers into the curriculum, from analytics and big data to the rise of fintech. Our students are ready to be leaders and problem-solvers in an ever-changing world.”

Read more here.

The New York Review of Books

In this provocative piece in THE NEW YORK REVIEW BOOKS, “The Path of Greatest Resistance,” author David Cole makes a compelling case for why social media help spark movements in a flash, but digital networks might stall long-term change more than foster it. He reviews Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest by Zeynep Tufekci along with Leslie Crutchfield’s new book, How Change Happens: Why Some Social Movements Succeed While Others Don’t, and shows how social media has helped new progressive movements flare up – MeToo, Parkland Students’ March for our Lives and the Women’s March – but protests these days can be ephemeral. READ MORE (new window)

Reed Smith, an international law firm, has become a member of the Student Leader Advisory Council of the Business for Impact at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. The council works with Business for Impact leadership to drive growth and impact of the Student Leader Program. Roles and responsibilities of council members include serving as mentors to the student leaders, providing seed funding for student-led projects, and speaking at sponsored networking and leadership development events.

Business for Impact partners with companies, nonprofits, and government agencies – and across sectors – to create lasting social, economic, and environmental impact.

Student engagement is central to the organization, with more than 75 student leaders from across the university who are involved in partner research, strategic planning, internships, case studies, and other activities.

“We are pleased to be part of this important program,” said Sandy Thomas, global managing partner, Reed Smith. “Our firm’s emphasis on corporate responsibility, community service, and pro bono work will enable us to provide great experiences for the participating Student Leaders.”

Business for Impact Student Leaders’ work with Reed Smith initially will focus on social impact finance, the U.S. opioid epidemic, and the international refugee crisis.

“We are excited to have Reed Smith on our council,” said Joe Weinstein, Business for Impact senior partner and co-director of the Student Leader program. “They will provide strategic counsel and will be great mentors for our students.”

About Reed Smith: Reed Smith is an international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their business forward. We enrich our client’s experiences with us and support them in achieving their business goals. Our longstanding relationships, international outlook and collaborative structure lead to the speedy resolution of complex disputes, transactions and regulatory matters. For further information, visit (new window).

About Business for Impact: Based at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Business for Impact enables current and future Georgetown-educated leaders to drive social, environmental, and economic impact across the globe.