Imagine you’re a first-year LMU student in the process of discovering your entrepreneurial potential. You find yourself in California – the land of start-ups and blue-sky thinking – and you’re energized to embark on an ambitious and altruistic career path. All the same, there’s a nagging question at the back of your mind. Is it really possible to serve the greater good and be financially successful?
The Business for Good Program, housed within the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability at LMU College of Business Administration (CBA), opens students’ minds to new ways of thinking about business, informed by our Jesuit and Marymount values and decades of pioneering research. Students come to understand that ethical practices aren’t just an optional add-on. Instead, working for the greater good is essential to business success – it’s the secret ingredient that too many companies overlook, to the detriment of their own profits and the lives of others. That culture-changing insight is shaping a new generation of business leaders at LMU, and the future impact of the program has been secured thanks to a $5 million endowment by the D.K. Kim Foundation.
“I believe that education transforms individuals and communities, and disrupts the cycle of poverty,” said Dong Koo Kim, founder of the D.K. Kim Foundation. “The LMU College of Business Administration is unlike any other business school – I immediately connected with their mission to cultivate moral courage and creative confidence, revealing how business can serve as a force for good in the global community.”
Established in 2020 as a foundational course for first-year business students, Business for Good champions a “bottom-up” approach to designing business solutions for low-income communities. The original course was developed by Madhu Viswanathan, Ph.D., whose groundbreaking research into the needs of subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs led him to establish his own nonprofit focused on marketplace literacy education – an important source of inspiration for the Business for Good Program.
“Through videos, live online interviews with community members, and multiple digital resources for immersive learning, students develop what I call ‘informed empathy’ – a crucial life skill that allows us to address real-world issues with compassion and practicality,” explained Viswanathan. “Instead of showing up with a pre-formed, top-down solution based on existing models, students learn to work with uncertainty. Bottom-up practices are all about letting the reality of a situation come to you, letting the lived experience of a group of individuals – whether Maasai farmers in Tanzania, or wool traders in Peru – shape the way we innovate with and for others.”
The D.K. Kim Foundation Business for Good Program will allow CBA to scale the course and its digital footprint, significantly increasing its reach to other universities, faculty, and students across the globe. “For me, one of the most exciting opportunities will be extending Business for Good far beyond the bluff, developing training workshops for educators worldwide, as well as creating global virtual platforms tailored to the needs of low-income youth in marginalized communities,” said Viswanathan. He explained that these initiatives will bring new immersive content back to the classroom, continually fueling the program with fresh insights and materials. “The global sharing of Business for Good isn’t a one-way translation,” Viswanathan continued. “It’s a never-ending loop, a constant productive exchange.”
The endowment will also provide ongoing support to grow and sustain the program, funding dedicated staffing as well as a generous budget for technology, field teams, creative programming, and competitions. “For every dollar invested in CBA, we’re able to provide unique opportunities that take teaching and learning to the next level,” said Dayle Smith, Ph.D., dean of CBA. “We teach students that business must have a voice at the table if we’re going to meet the urgent sustainable development goals outlined by the United Nations.”
Empowered by hope and ever attentive to the triple bottom line, students carry the lessons of Business for Good with them throughout their LMU experience and into their diverse careers. For Mr. Kim, that catalytic match of idealism and pragmatism speaks to his own mission to transform human life through education. “The wisdom, passion, and warm heart of the team at CBA are exactly why I chose to partner with the university. Together we are stronger, and our collaboration will create opportunities for this transformative work to be shared and implemented worldwide.”