Why My Company Has a Social Mission

By David Klein, Wharton alumnus, Co-founder and CEO of CommonBond

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the Social Impact Initiative blog.

I sometimes get the question, “Why do you have a social mission?”

David Klein with members of the Wharton Social Venture Fund, spring 2014.
David Klein with members of the Wharton Social Venture Fund, spring 2014.

To which I will respond, “I can’t wait for the day to come when I get to ask you why you don’t.”

At CommonBond, our core social mission is simple: For every fully funded degree on the CommonBond platform, we fund the education of a student in need for a full year. We’ve partnered up with Pencils of Promise to make this a reality in over 200 schools in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana, and Laos. We call this our “Social Promise” – it is core to who we are and why we do what we do.

I see a world in which for-profit companies with strong social missions become the rule – they don’t remain the exception. And I believe that tide is turning.

I visit MBA campuses every year, and increasingly, I’m finding values-driven young leaders focused on social good becoming more and more the rule than the exception.

Values-driven business is a deeply rooted value of the Millennial generation, and something that we, as a generation, are starting to get behind in a meaningful way – through the careers we choose, the companies we start, and the money we spend.

We think about market size, we think about competitive landscape, we think about revenue model. We also think about social good – and if our business model has no room for it, then maybe it doesn’t make sense as a business, just as a for-profit model with zero revenue prospects would make no sense to pursue.

This idea not only has a home in the developing mind of an entire generation; it also finds itself in the mind of some of the greatest business thinkers of our time.

Jim Collins, author of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last,” is one example: He shared at the 2010 World Business Forum in New York that he’s come to believe, after much research and a lot of thinking, that driving social good is what makes us a great nation.

As a generation, we demand more from business. We know it has a responsibility to make profit, and we also know it has a responsibility to do good.

That’s our secret weapon as a generation. And that could be the greatest legacy we leave behind. If we do this right, the responsibility for social good will find itself in our businesses and institutions and national psyche for generations to come.

Bio: David Klein is CEO & Co-Founder of CommonBond, a student lending platform that provides a better student loan experience through lower rates, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to community. CommonBond is also the first company to bring the 1-for-1 model to education and finance. Prior to CommonBond, David worked in consumer finance at American Express and advised clients in the financial services industry at McKinsey. He also sat on the Board of the Bronx Charter School for the Arts. David attended the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 2011-2012.