Challenging the role of business in society

Professor Jasjit Singh
Jasjit Singh, The Paul Dubrule Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development

In the last 10 years, the concept of stakeholder capitalism has gained significant momentum, says Jasjit Singh, the Paul Dubrule Chaired Professor of Sustainable Development at INSEAD. “Everyone is talking about how business needs to do more,” he says. “We’ve seen that market forces alone cannot fix issues such as inequality and climate change.”

Thanks to the support of the Kurt Björklund MBA'96J Fund for Entrepreneurship and Society, Singh is able to accelerate research in this area. “This is a fund that is meant to encourage and fund research at the interPanel of business and society,” says Singh, whose own work helps entrepreneurs, philanthropists, investors and organisations best manage their social impact.

For example, the fund is enabling Singh to research the developments and outcomes of a recent law in India that requires companies to allocate 2% of their profits to corporate social responsibility projects. The research seeks to identify both positive results and unintended consequences of the law. “We are exploring: Is the law achieving the desired outcomes? Or could we have done better?” says Singh. “Ultimately, we hope that we can determine whether companies are spending in a way that is most useful from society’s point of view, and not diverting funding away from regions or causes that deserve more support.”

Last year, the fund also supported the development of Singh’s case study about NaTakallam, an award winning social enterprise that connects refugees to work opportunities in the language sector. Led by Aline Sara, a social entrepreneur who studied at INSEAD, the venture exemplifies both the potential of and the challenges in scaling market solutions to pervasive social problems. “This humanitarian entrepreneur is saying, ‘I want to help refugees—not just by sending them money or giving them food, but by building a business that is actually going to generate employment and provide dignified living,’” notes Singh.

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