Georg Kell was a keynote speaker during Rutgers Business School's Innovations in Undergraduate Business Education Conference.

Lessons from Georg Kell: Founder of the United Nations Global Compact

By Noa Gafni

Earlier this week, at the Innovations for Undergraduate Business Education Conference, I had the privilege of introducing keynote speaker Georg Kell, a true visionary who has committed, throughout his career, to driving impact across all aspects of society. It was a pleasure listening to him speak and it was clear from his speech that business not only can but must have a positive impact on society.

Over the past two decades, Kell has led a movement to change the private sector’s engagement with global issues and make it clear that business has a key role to play in driving social change. According to Kell, global companies cannot just focus on maximizing profits but also need to have a positive impact on society. Financial success is based on the success of the markets that companies operate and invest in. It makes sense then, from a business standpoint, to ensure local economies thrive.

The United Nations has been a force in driving corporate responsibility and sustainability - what we call “social innovation.” Untraditional stakeholders, like international organizations and universities, will play a key role in pushing business forward. That’s why the Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation (RICSI) recently hosted an event in support of the University Global Compact, an initiative that enables universities to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals, built with the same principles as the organization Kell founded and served as founding executive director, the United Nations Global Compact.

Kell is currently chairman of Arabesque Partners, an asset management firm that integrates environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data with quantitative investment strategies. In the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, where we will rely more heavily on algorithms to make decisions for us, it’s key that we build an ethical framework into the underlying system, and it’s one of many areas where Arabesque is leading the way. Arabesque invests in companies using ESG as criteria for financial success. During his keynote at Rutgers Business School, Kell highlighted research which reveals socially responsible businesses outperform their peers in the long term.

Kell closed with a call to action for educators — universities have a key role to play. By reframing business education to include the positive impact corporations can have on society, we can educate future business leaders to put ESG first and in turn, ensure companies have a positive impact on society and their bottom line.

This work resonates deeply with our research, teaching, and outreach at the RICSI. Rutgers Business School was featured in The Financial Times this week as a notable university in the social impact space. As a leading public institution, it’s important to educate the next generation of business leaders, helping them see the opportunity in social impact from both a societal and a financial standpoint.

Noa Gafni is executive director of the Rutgers Institute for Corporate Social Innovation.


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