On the 28th August 1963 civil rights campaigner, Martin Luther King, led thousands of people on a march to America’s capital, Washington DC. There he gave a speech that inspired and paved the way for equal rights and changed the world forever. Fifty years on there are signs that the power of protest is on the rise again with big business firmly in its crosshairs.

The power of protest is a formidable force capable of driving disruption and bringing even the fiercest dictators to their knees. Recent protests in Egypt provide poignant evidence. Of all the disruptive forces we track at TomorrowToday, the power of protest has the greatest potential to interrupt business with immediate and lasting effect.

Governments, activists and consumers now demand that companies increase returns not only for shareholders but also for society as a whole. The current energy debate in the UK this week is testimony to this with TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady entering the foray saying “consumers want politicians to tackle excess profits and undeserved bonuses”. The performance bar has been raised and the Internet ensures that everyone is watching.

There is good news for future focused leaders. By centering strategies on delivering societal value and solving some of the world’s biggest problems opportunities exist to make a lot of money and there is a new breed of leaders who are showing they can outperform competitors who focus solely on short-term cost cutting and bottom line returns.

We’ve identified three standout companies who focus their strategies on doing good for society and at the same time deliver superior results:

  1. IBM: Building a smarter planet;
  2. Tom Shoes: One for One
  3. John Lewis Partnership: The proper workings of capitalism.

You can read more about how these businesses are building sustainable competitive advantage here

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