The power of public-private partnerships

Many people think of public-private partnerships (or P3s) as a relatively recent invention. The fact is P3s have been around for a long time. In 1742 Benjamin Franklin founded the American Philosophical Association of Philadelphia which soon joined forces with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to establish America’s first medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.[i]

While sometimes defined as a partnership between government and the private sector, P3s can now refer to any cross-sector collaboration. This could include NGOs or nonprofit organizations working with government or business to address societal problems.

Often one thinks of road or infrastructure projects when they hear public-private partnerships; however there are other examples worth noting. The international organization, Save the Children, partnered with GlaxoSmithKline to bring needed medical aid to countries with high mortality rates. The World Wildlife Fund partnered with the Coca-Cola Company to address water scarcity issues around the world. There are many more examples of innovative partnerships happening right now to bring about positive change.

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Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children, speaks about the partnership with GlaxoSmithKline


Leaders are looking outside of traditional solutions to solve new or persistent problems. Each sector can contribute its own set of strengths to better address the problem. That’s why P3s have the potential to offer fresh ideas, community involvement, more resources and lasting impact.

To honor the world’s best P3s, the Institute for Business in Society and Concordia have created the P3 Impact Award. Applications are now being accepted through 30 April 2014. Criteria and the application form can be found at the P3 Impact Award website. The award will be presented at the Concordia Summit held on 29-30 September 2014 in New York City.


[i] Louis Witters, Revital Marom and Kurt Steinert. “The Role of Public-Private Partnerships in Driving Innovation.” The Global Innovation Index 2012. INSEAD.

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Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb “elevates the community stakeholder”

Freeman chatting with Robb about the Whole Foods mission
Photo/Susan Wormington

In an event co-hosted by Net Impact at Darden and the Darden 2014 Leadership Speaker Series, Whole Foods Co-CEO Walter Robb addressed a packed Abbott Center Auditorium on January 22nd.  Robb credited IBiS Academic Director Ed Freeman, and his world-renowned concept of stakeholder theory, with helping to guide the mission, agenda, and goals of Whole Foods Markets.  Robb focused his remarks on ”elevating the community stakeholder,” describing the people and institutions external to a business as some of the most important but most underappreciated of the stakeholder groups.

Through new initiatives such as Whole Cities, Whole Foods has begun to expand into neighborhoods where residents lack access to fresh food.  Stores have opened in New Orleans’ 9th Ward, Chicago’s Southside, and Detroit’s Midtown.  The Whole Cities initiative aims to create long-term value in these depressed areas by employing residents in stable jobs, by providing whole and healthy food options to those living and working in the city, and by encouraging other businesses to take root nearby.  Robb stressed that with Whole Cities, Whole Foods is putting Freeman’s stakeholder theory into practice, measuring success by Whole Foods’ ability to improve the lives of all stakeholders.

Robb describing conditions in Midtown Detroit
Photo/Susan Wormington



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Senator Warner visits Darden, meets with IBiS elective class

On January 21st, Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) spent the afternoon at the Darden School of Business, meeting with administrators, faculty, and students as part of a trip to the region.  In particular, he met with IBiS Academic Director Mary Margaret Frank‘s students who are part of her groundbreaking course on the national debt.  In this cross-disciplinary seminar, graduate students from seven different departments and professional schools at UVA explore the broad topic by engaging with guest speakers, learning problem-solving approaches from various disciplines, directing their own reading and research, and collaborating on a final project.  For the course project, the students are creating a short video to educate young adults about the size, growth, sources, and consequences of the debt.

Photo/Andrew Shurtleff

Following Senator Warner’s meeting with the students from the national debt seminar, he spoke to a larger audience of graduate students about innovation and politics, answering a number of questions about crowdfunding, immigration, and taxes.

Senator Warner’s visit was co-sponsored by the Institute for Business in Society (IBiS) and the Business & Public Policy Club.  Read more in The Daily Progress and at UVA Today.

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“Local Roots, Global Reach” Business in Society conference on 14 February 2014



Registration is now open for the 2014 Business in Society Conference!

The annual Business in Society Conference aims to bring together a diverse audience of students, community members and business leaders to discuss the role of business in providing lasting value in an increasingly complex global society. This year’s conference will be held on Friday, February 14th at the Darden School of Business.

This year, the theme of “Local Roots, Global Reach” aims to explore the convergence of local and global players in impacting society through business solutions.  Sessions will explore how local actors can produce big wins and how big players can drive local change.  The conference will feature a broad collection of panelists and speakers from the public, private, and non-profit sectors, as well as a keynote address from Katherine Neebe (Darden ’04), Director of Sustainability and Stakeholder Engagement at Walmart. See the conference website for the conference agenda, detailed session information, and more.

We ask that all conference participants register online by Monday, February 10th. Registration is free and should be completed through the conference website.

Please reach out to Christine Dreas with any questions concerning the conference.

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BPA and the Question of Replacement

In 2009, many parents posted pictures on blogs like this one, informing others of which baby bottles did not contain BPA

Many mothers’ blogs posted pictures like this one, informing others of which baby bottles did not contain BPA

Some firms proactively replace chemicals that have been labeled as potentially-hazardous substances.  Perhaps they want to avoid the chance of regulation in the future or perhaps the market is inducing replacement because consumers are demanding products free from the substance in question.  If firms do not proactively replace these potentially-hazardous substances, how can non-governmental organizations (NGOs) influence companies to take action?  When should NGOs target industry and when they should target regulatory bodies given the existence of potentially-hazardous substances in consumer products?

This question is the subject of a paper co-authored by Assistant Professor Tim Kraft (along with Yanchong Zheng, MIT, and Feryal Erhun, Stanford).  It is the first to analytically study an activist organization’s strategic choice of where to allocate (often scarce) resources under different market and regulatory conditions. Often a substance such as bisphenol-A (BPA) is not regulated by a government; however, scientists and consumers remain concerned about the potential harm to human health that could result from repeated exposure.  Using game theory, Kraft and his colleagues suggest best practices for NGOs, strategic recommendations that depend on market structure, potential environmental benefit, and the degree to which the organization is willing to be pragmatic.  For instance, more pragmatic NGOs (meaning NGOs that consider firms’ profits) should leverage competition between firms to ensure that a replacement becomes available to consumers.

This paper was recently published in a special issue of Manufacturing and Service Operations Management on sustainability and operations management (Fall 2013) and can be downloaded here.

Kraft recently published a related paper in Production and Operations Management (July-August 2013), from the viewpoint of corporations’ decisions of whether or not to replace a potentially-hazardous substance and the timing of a company’s investment decisions.  He and Associate Professor Gal Raz have also written a paper that examines whether opportunities exist for companies to not compete on toxicity but to instead work together to replace a potentially hazardous substance. It is currently available here for download from SSRN.

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Frank provides insight on national debt

Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brightwell

Frank lends perspectives on national debt at the Batten School on Oct. 28th
(Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brightwell)


The Generational Equity Tour is a nationwide series of public engagement events presented by The Can Kicks Back, a non-partisan and millennial-led campaign to defeat the national debt.  The Tour came to the University of Virginia on October 28th.  The screening of the nonpartisan documentary about the national debt, I.O.U.S.A., was followed by a panel discussion about how our growing national debt threatens the future of young people and what we can do about it.

Panelists included:

  • Mary Margaret Frank, Academic Director of the Institute of Business in Society
  • David Walker, former U.S. Comptroller General
  • Nick Troiano, co-founder of The Can Kicks Back

Frank is also teaching a cross-disciplinary course on the national debt, which engages graduate students from across the University.  They gather together to hear guest speakers from various disciplines, investigating the history and formation of the national debt.  Ultimately they are assessing the issues most pertinent for young adults to understand, working in small teams to produce an online educational tool that can be widely distributed.

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IBiS Honors Resilient Virginia Businesses

Each year the Darden School of Business highlights resilient businesses through the Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards. We asked business owners at the fourth annual awards dinner what advice they had for young people looking to go into business.


The Resilience Awards is a unique competition that highlights and supports strong, resilient businesses in some of Virginia’s most economically-challenged communities. Beating the odds, these businesses bring hope and jobs to their cities and regions, while facing obstacles that might discourage less enterprising companies. The 2013 Tayloe Murphy Resilience Awards video highlights 2013 finalists and winners as well as a 2011 winner.

Read more about this year’s winners here.




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IBiS director discusses business ethics with Slovenian leaders


Panel with Lisa Stewart, Director of IBiS, U.S. Ambassador H.E. Joseph A. Mussomeli, and Biljana Weber, General Manager Microsoft Slovenia

IBiS Director Lisa Stewart spoke about cultivating ethical leadership at the Future Ethical Efficiency Leadership (FEEL) conference, held in Slovenia on 12 June 2013.  After delivering an address to an audience of over a hundred managers, executives, and policymakers (watch highlights from her one-hour delivery), Stewart participated in a panel discussion about ethical leadership along with the U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia and the General Manager of Microsoft Slovenia.

Stewart’s expertise and enthusiasm has established a lasting relationship between Darden thought leaders and Slovenian practitioners.  Many of the conference participants want to continue to draw on Darden’s extensive knowledge about business ethics in the future.  Read the Darden News release by Abena Foreman-Trice here.

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Professor Freeman received honorary doctorate degree for his pioneering research

The Institute for Business in Society at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business congratulates IBiS Academic Director R. Edward Freeman who received an honorary doctorate degree at Radboud University in May.

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On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of Radboud University Nijmegen, Freeman received an honorary doctorate degree for his groundbreaking work in business ethics and Stakeholder Theory. Radboud University Nijmegen is a student-oriented research university located in the oldest city in the Netherlands.  Freeman is pictured with Prof. Frances Ashcroft (center), professor at the University of Oxford, and Prof. Robbert Dijkgraaf (right), director of the Institute for Advanced Study located at Princeton University.

The degree was given for Freeman’s Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, which introduced the concept of stakeholders, all of those individuals or groups other than shareholders who have a stake in the particular decision or action of companies.  The book proved to be a landmark in the development of stakeholder theory, a theory of management that emphasizes morality and ethics in managing companies and other organizations.

Researchers from Radboud University have been working with Freeman on new theories in business ethics and professional ethics as well as research into global ethical issues such as sustainability and poverty.

Freeman is also an honorary doctor at Comillas Pontificial University. He has received awards for excellence in teaching from the Wharton School, Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota and the Darden School. In 2001, he was honoured with a Pioneer Award for Lifetime Achievement and in 2005 he received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia State Council on Higher Education.

Freeman will offer a new, free massive open online course, or MOOC, “New Models of Business in Society” that seeks to revolutionize our thinking about how business creates or destroys value for its stakeholders – customers, suppliers, employees, communities and society, in addition to shareholders and other financiers. ”If you’re interested in business, interested in making business and the world better, sign up for the course,” said Freeman.

Register now for “New Models of Business in Society.”

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2013 Resilience Awards deadline is 31 July!

The 2013 Resilience Awards are fast-approaching! Apply or nominate a steadfast Virginian business before the deadline of 31 July 2013. Visit the website for more info or click here to apply.





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