Businesses today face three interlocking challenges: shareholder demand for growth, employee desire for meaningful work, and rising expectations from society to address social, economic, and environmental challenges through corporate responsibility. Learning expedition CSR & Responsibility help leaders to understand and prepare to these challenges.

The coronavirus pandemic served as a powerful reminder that companies can and must assume a more prominent role in addressing societal challenges – and the need for action is as pressing as ever. Global priorities are shifting in line with emerging paradigms. As outlined in the United Nations Sustainable Goal 12 for 2030, the world is expected to shift towards more sustainable production and development This goal entails a more efficient use of natural resources,a more sound management of chemicals to minimise the impacts on health and the environment and an increased transparency in reporting cycles on corporate sustainability.

Leading firms are tackling all of these challenges simultaneously by turning to corporate social innovation (CSI). By investing in new innovation sources and methods, including partnerships with social entrepreneurs and employee “intrapreneurs,” corporations are generating new products, unlocking markets, and engaging in creative philanthropy—all of which address social challenges while supporting business reputation and growth.


We have identified Stockholm, London, Amsterdam and Paris as the best places to learn more about corporate social innovation. However, there are corporations striving to become more responsible and sustainable everywhere, so don’t hesitate to contact us to organize a learning expedition in another city as well.

The Netherlands mentality is still marked by Erasmus’ values, Humanism and Europeanism. The European footprint is deeply anchored in the Dutch spirit. The Netherlands is also famous worldwide for its inclusive mindset. It has been a forerunner in the championing of Equal Rights for the LGBTQ+ community. 

In 2015, the city launched a triennial plan to promote social entrepreneurship in AmsterdamTriennal plans are aimed to tackle social challenges in health, education, employment, sustainability and poverty by developing and marketing innovative goods and services. A distinctive brand name, the “Amsterdam Impact” initiative was developed to strengthen the city’s ecosystem for companies that simultaneously create financial and societal value. With a National Environmental Policy Plan in place for more than 20 years and more bikes than people, the Netherlands’ sustainable culture makes it a leader in new innovations and policies to make transportation, energy and industries more sustainable. The Netherlands is also gaining recognition as a hub for sustainable fashion. 

In addition, Amsterdam is considered one of the smartest cities in the world (3rd smartest cities by IESE Cities in Motion Index, 2019) and one of the most dynamic startup hubs in Europe. To achieve its sustainability plans, the city is collaborating and seeking agreements with industries, supply chain managers, real estate developers, and its bus and taxi companies for example, accelerating the transformation of these businesses. Amsterdam is also becoming the European HQ of more and more global organisations, especially after Brexit, and therefore a place to meet some of the most inspiring corporations with innovative CSR initiatives such as Salesforce, Danone or Cisco. Among the most inspiring social enterprises in the city, Amsterdam hosts the ethical smartphone company Fairphone launched in 2013. The B-Corp certified company is transforming the electronics industry with a phone that is “kind to people and kind to the planet”. More about Learning Expeditions in Amsterdam

In Britain, almost two-thirds of companies already invest in corporate social responsibility programmes, research by NatWest shows, with 64% of mid-sized businesses having committed to ethical behaviour through corporate social responsibility.

London hosts the regional headquarters of many large corporations that are paving the way when it comes to corporate social responsibility and innovation, such as Microsoft, Starbucks, Walmart, Vodafone, Unilever / Ben & Jerry, Danone or Nestlé. 

As a major innovation hub in Europe and a leading centre of philanthropy, it is not surprising that London also has the largest number of B Corps in the region. “B Corp” is one of the most recognized labels for businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance. In May 2020, there were 150 “B Corp” companies in London, of all sizes and in diverse industries. Impact Hub, a community of social entrepreneurs that has been around for 10 years, is one of them. 

London is also a place to better understand topics such as Corporate Digital Responsibility as the city hosts the Foundational Research Institute which studies ways to reduce risk from emerging technologies.

Stockholm, the Swedish capital, has positioned itself as one of the most exciting ecosystems in terms of sustainable development, greentech/cleantech, corporate social responsibility (CSR), well-being at work, and health/pharmaceuticals. This destination, not far from us, has been highly recommended this year because of its many innovative companies and the valuable insights it offers.

Stockholm is a true breeding ground for innovative leaders, generating an impressive number of companies valued at more than a billion dollars per capita, after Silicon Valley. Globally known names such as Spotify and Klarna have already revolutionised the music and e-commerce industries. In addition, Stockholm stands out for its commitment to CSR, with Swedish companies such as Ikea, H&M, Ericsson, and Electrolux considered pioneers in this field. The city is noteworthy for its transformation of mobility, implementing bold initiatives to reduce congestion, improve air quality, and promote sustainable modes of transport. Further, the Scandinavian city is globally recognized as a leading research hub in the health sector. Swedish culture, characterised by values of equality, autonomy, and transparency, also influences the participatory and collaborative leadership style, which your leaders can draw inspiration from.”

The French experience with CSR is marked by a special focus on labour issues and employee involvement. France has been a pioneer in corporate innovation, with the first international framework agreement (IFA) on CSR negotiated between a multinational organisation and trade unions in 1988, followed by around ten more (including Danone, Accor, Carrefour or Renault, for example). 

The multinational Danone is the largest French company to receive the B-Corp certification for some parts of its business. Danone’s collaboration with Grameen Bank’s founder and Nobel Prize Muhammad Yunus to create a social business selling enriched yoghurt in Bangladesh has been one of the most inspiring experiments stemming from corporate social innovation over the last few years. 

Nearly half the world’s most sustainable corporate companies across environmental, social and governance factors are located in Europe, according to the Corporate Knights Global 100 index. France paves the way with nine sustainable companies in the ranking, including L’Oréal, Kering and BNP Paribas. In fact, Paris hosts the largest number of B-Corps in Europe, after London.