Research outlines 19 ways for businesses to drive positive behaviour in society

A handbook offering advice for businesses of every kind to help drive much needed social change the world over has been formulated by experts from the University of Sheffield’s Management School.

The framework provides an overview of the 19 mechanisms companies can use to drive positive behaviour change and how change efforts should be managed.

Forward-thinking business leaders see that these social innovations can also add value to organisations by raising their profile, attracting new customers or identifying new markets or opportunities. This report is a key tool for managers who want to spark positive change among people and organisations.

MainThe new report, by Dr Ute Stephan, Dr Malcolm Patterson and Ciara Kelly, all of the University of Sheffield’s Management School, reveals the three components that businesses can use to drive positive behaviour change.

Analysing comprehensive evidence covering the last 20 years, the report is a handbook for any organisation interested in social innovation, cause marketing, or responsible consumption.

“There is no single body of work on business-driven social change: This report breaks new ground,” said lead author Dr Ute Stephan. “By providing a framework for businesses to understand how to drive social change, this report offers the tools necessary for businesses to effectively achieve change.”

Whether you’re an electric utility provider asking people to use less energy or a grocery store encouraging people to buy healthy food, businesses play a key role in driving social change,

Driving social change was identified by leading Canadian organisations as a key sustainability challenge. The Network of Business Sustainability ( and managers from Canadian industry leaders advised the research project throughout as did Professor Johanna Mair, Stanford University and Hertie School of Governance, Professor Rob Briner of the University of Bath and Dr Jo Rick of the University of Manchester. The research could not have been produced without the financial and intellectual assistance of the Network for Business Sustainability.

Additional information

Download the full 109-page report:
Business-Driven Social Change: A Systematic Review of the Evidence 

Download the 20-page Executive Report:
Driving Social Change: Best Practices for Business Leaders and Social Entrepreneurs

The University of Sheffield
With nearly 25,000 of the brightest students from 117 countries coming to learn alongside 1,209 of the world’s best academics, it is clear why the University of Sheffield is one of the UK’s leading universities. Staff and students at Sheffield are committed to helping discover and understand the causes of things - and propose solutions that have the power to transform the world we live in.

A member of the Russell Group, the University of Sheffield has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards 2011 for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007), recognising the outstanding contribution by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

One of the markers of a leading university is the quality of its alumni and Sheffield boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students. Its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.
Research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, Siemens, Yorkshire Water and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. The White Rose University Consortium (White Rose) a strategic partnership between 3 of the UK's leading research universities of Leeds, Sheffield and York. Since its creation in 1997 White Rose has secured more than £100M into the Universities.


For further information please contact:

Dr Ute Stephan
University of Sheffield Management School
Institute of Work Psychology
0114 222 32 86

Amy Pullan
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 9859