By Audrey Regan, Communication Intern

As a college student and life-long learner, I pick up on the conflicting information I see in and out of the business field. I have the advantage of going to a university which prides itself on tradition, but does not let tradition form the path it takes for the future. Iowa State University pushes its students in all colleges to be innovative and aware of both corporate social responsibility, and how to be successful in business.

Harvard business professor, Michael Porter, has inspired me in this Ted Talk to think about how the role business plays in society should be changed.  Porter argues businesses have the most growth potential by solving what Porter calls “social issues,” whereas traditional views in the economic development industry believed there was a trade-off between corporate social responsibilities and creating a profit. The short-term deception was that reducing pollution or upgrading facilities to prevent safety hazards would add unnecessary expenses to the business.

Working for the Cultivation Corridor as an Iowa State intern has showed me how a business can not only benefit from working to prevent a social issue, but that an infinite amount of long-term business success can come from this. In the Corridor, we promote businesses who profit from solving environmental issues … and for good reason!

When so many prevalent food and environmental issues exist, it’s clear change is necessary.

Incremental successes of government legislation, non-governmental organizations and philanthropic donations are not going to cut it in this day and age. Our environmental issues are growing faster than the solutions we have come up with thus far.

As the world’s population continues to grow, so does the scarcity of our resources. What businesses have that others do not is the infinite ability to expand and create resources.

As Porter explains, businesses meet needs to create a profit which leads to tax incentives, jobs, income and charitable donations. This process allows the business to create enough capital to enable expansion. This could be the solution to the problem of scale when solving social/environmental issues.

If a business venture launches with a core mission to solve a social issue, that business has huge expansion opportunity. Porter would argue that this is the largest business opportunity in today’s world.

We see the synergy in Corridor businesses like the Center for Bioplastics and Biocomposites (CB2) and Renewable Energy Group (REG); each of these companies work toward a larger goal to help solve an issue, while continuing to profit and expand.

A modern economic initiative takes advantage of the synergy between solving social issues and creating business success. The Cultivation Corridor works to help solve world food challenges. By working with the businesses in the Corridor, we are creating resources and utilizing talent to solve these issues together. The infinite possibilities of this organization truly amaze me.