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Business as an Agent of World Benefit
The Fowler Center for Sustainable Value is the academic center that bridges the gap between theory and practice for both management practitioners and scholars. Through intimate, meaningful collaborations with individuals from a diverse range of organizations, the Fowler Center guides managers to embed sustainability in their core business, creating value for society and the environment in ways that create even more value for their customers and shareholders.
The Fowler Center's projects, education programs, and corporate products are informed by two core concepts: appreciative inquiry and sustainable value. In 2014, the center welcomed participants from around the world to the third Global Forum for Business as an Agent of World Benefit at Case Western Reserve. Structured like an appreciative inquiry summit, the forum also featured prominent speakers on topics related to sustainable value.
Sustainable Value is defined by Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Chris Laszlo, PhD, as a dynamic state that occurs when a company creates ongoing value for its shareholders and stakeholders. By 'doing good' for society and the environment, the company does even better for its customers and shareholders than it otherwise would.
The shift from shareholder value to Sustainable Value is the natural outcome of a new external environment characterized by declining natural resources, radical transparency, and rising expectations. Sustainable Value is not just a better environmental strategy; it is a response to a radically different market reality in which the economic, ecological, and social spheres are unified into a single integrated value creation space.
Appreciative Inquiry (AI) emerged at the Weatherhead School in the 1980s as David Cooperrider and Ron Fry discovered the power of positive inquiry for igniting innovation and whole-system change. Their concept of AI has become a global movement with tens of thousands of practitioners on six continents—all working (1) to identify the unique strengths of individuals, businesses, and systems, and (2) to leverage and unite those strengths to greater effect throughout whole systems.