Reflecting on the Social Impact Conference 2024: Profits vs. Purpose

By Sabrina Yegela, MBA2025

As someone steadfastly driven by values and a mission to effect positive change in the world, I’ve often contemplated whether it is truly possible to do well by doing good. The Social Impact Conference at London Business School provided a profound platform to explore this query beyond the usual lunch table discussions and lecture settings, bringing together industry leaders who have successfully navigated this path. Despite the inherent challenges for an organizer to fully immerse in such events, this conference offered an invaluable opportunity to connect with and learn from inspiring individuals who have positively responded to this critical question.

What Is My Role in Impact?

Upon entering the grand Nuffield Hall on that brisk April morning, the air was charged with an electric atmosphere of anticipation and the collective energy of like-minded peers. This year’s theme, “What is Your Role in Impact?”, challenged us, especially MBA students at a transitional life stage, to introspect on our individual roles in shaping societal well-being and environmental sustainability. The conference aimed to identify who truly bears the responsibility for change—be it the public, private, or social sectors, or a collaboration among all. Our goal was to foster a robust dialogue in a traditionally profit-forward space by bringing diverse perspectives under one roof.

The event began with a series of powerful keynote speeches that shook the foundations of traditional business paradigms centred solely on profitability. These discussions shone a light on how future leaders could utilize business tools to foster societal benefits, blending financial success with ethical missions.

Key Insights That Resonated

  • Holistic Approaches to Business Problems: We delved into the necessity of formulating solutions—both straightforward and complex—that consider long-term societal and environmental impacts. Leaders from various sectors demonstrated how their initiatives are driving change not only within their organizations but are also influencing broader ecosystems, leading to sustainable growth and enhanced business profitability.
  • Technology as a Force for Good: The “Tech for Good” panel was particularly revelatory, exploring the role of technological advancements in driving economic growth and tackling deep-rooted societal issues. The discussions on ethical AI and sustainable innovations were highlights, serving as both inspiration and a call to action.
  • Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability: This session resonated deeply as it unpacked how corporations are integrating social responsibility into their core strategies to align with global initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It highlighted a pivotal shift towards business models that prioritize long-term societal health alongside profitability, marked by an escalating demand for transparent ESG reporting and compliance.

Participating in the panels, engaging in workshops, and conversing during coffee breaks with incredible speakers, including some inspiring LBS alumni, I found myself deeply reflecting on my own goals and career path. This transformative conference affirmed my commitment to social impact and encouraged attendees to not only listen but actively reflect and strategize their next steps.

Why Discussing Impact Is Crucial in Business Education

The world stands at a crucial crossroads, with the capacity to either enact tremendous good or cause irreversible harm. Integrating discussions of social impact within business education is essential as it prepares future leaders to navigate the complex interplay between business success and societal health.

  • Educating Versatile Leaders: Discussing impact equips business students to navigate a world where business success is increasingly tied to societal well-being.
  • Global Priorities and Ethical Considerations: As global challenges like climate change and social inequality intensify, it’s imperative that business education confronts these issues directly, preparing students to make decisions with both immediate and long-term impacts in mind.

Looking Ahead: The Path Forward

The insights from the 2024 Social Impact Conference have shown me the myriad possibilities that lie ahead. As we progress, let’s pledge to integrate these learnings into every facet of our strategies and decisions, both in our personal and professional lives. The principle of ‘doing well by doing good’ is not only feasible but necessary for sustainable success in today’s world.

Let’s continue to drive change and create value that transcends traditional business metrics, acting as catalysts who not only envision a better world but actively work to realize it. Because indeed, we can.

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