Assessing Impact

“Too many businesses forget their original reason for being ... to solve social problems.”

Unilever CEO Paul Polman made that observation during a keynote speech at last November’s Net Impact conference held in Minneapolis. More than 2,000 individuals and 150 business school chapters attended the event, which was organized around the theme of “Breaking Boundaries.”

Many sessions focused on collaborations among the private sector, NGOs, governments, and nonprofits; they addressed issues such as sustainable business, food and water scarcity, and the employment challenges facing at-risk communities. Other sessions and workshops offered career advice for business students interested in pursuing careers that will have a positive impact.

In addition to Polman, attendees heard from Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab; Richard Mattison, CEO of Trucost Plc; and Natalie DiNicola, a vice president at Monsanto. Another speaker, John Church, an executive vice president at General Mills, offered this advice: “If you want to change the world, find the biggest lever you can find and pull hard.”

Selected video links from the conference can be found at