We pursue an applied research agenda in which social and environmental challenges are framed as opportunities for the private sector to create superior business strategies and competitive advantage. Our research reflects these priorities.

Ongoing Research

Water and Economic Development in the Hudson and Mohawk Watersheds
New York State Water Resources Institute and New York State Hudson River Estuary Program

PI: Mark Milstein

Research Associate: John Tauzel

Dates: Fall 2012 ­– Spring 2013

This project explores the ties between water availability and economic development and how these connections can be used to enhance growth, particularly through entrepreneurial activity, throughout the Hudson and Mohawk Watersheds, NY. Engaging business leaders, policy makers and economic development professionals, the study examines the feasibility of marketing the region’s water resources in an era of increasing global water scarcity. It also analyzes the potential development of a water technology cluster to leverage the region's technology strengths in the $500 billion water market.

Building Markets & Enterprise for Malaria Eradication

Funders: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and S. C. Johnson & Sons, Inc

PI: Mark Milstein

Program Manager: Erik Simanis

Dates: Spring 2010 ­– Spring 2013

This project aims to accelerate malaria eradication efforts by complementing today’s dominant philanthropy-based, public-health model with a market-based, consumer-level business model, in which products and services significantly reduce malaria infection within at risk (i.e., low-income) populations. The Center has received grant money totaling $1 million to work in close partnership with S. C. Johnson in creating a sustainable business that offers products and services that reduce malaria infection in Ghana.

Creative Design for Affordability Program

Funder: National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA)

PI: Mark Milstein

Program Manager: Monica Touesnard

Dates: Fall 2010 – Fall 2013

This funding seeks to significantly enhance and institutionalize its new Creative Design for Affordability course, established in collaboration with faculty from Cornell’s College of Human Ecology Department of Design and Environmental Analysis and the Johnson Graduate School of Management’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise. Through this partnership, we will establish infrastructure for long-term support of approximately five multidisciplinary E-teams each year, which include (but are not limited to) students from business, design, engineering, and agriculture and life sciences, who will work with peers in India on the development and launch of new businesses that address global societal challenges. Course teams also compete in the Acara Institute Challenge.


Past Research


Developing Business & Sustainability Curriculum Resources


Funder: Hatfield Grant at Cornell University

PI: Mark Milstein

Program Manager: Monica Touesnard

Dates: 2007- 2011

The project will broaden and deepen the permanent collection of high-quality short videos of sustainable enterprise experts. The collection focuses on four domains: the hospitality industry; the design and development of products and services for the world’s poor; innovative partnerships between the public, private and non-profit sectors; and the role individuals play in using economic principles to drive change and innovation, and to solve problems as entrepreneurs.

Building University Capabilities for Enterprise Development in Emerging Economies

Funder: Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies at Cornell University

PI: Mark Milstein

Dates: 2009 – 2011

Leveraging private-sector concepts, the Center seeks to define a model that generates value and knowledge creation by connecting university technologies, resources, and capabilities with those of low-income communities. We are developing a proof-of-concept document that features a practical tool for universities and other organizations trying to address the challenge of global poverty.

Private Enterprise Solutions for Poverty Alleviation: Approaches of the U.S. Military

Funder: The Social Equity Venture (S.E.VEN) Fund

PI: Mark Milstein

Dates: Spring 2008 -

This study examines the various approaches to promoting private enterprise utilized by the U.S. Army and Marines and compares them to those of the private sector and NGO community. This will provide a valuable opportunity to build knowledge around the complex relationship between entrepreneurship and poverty alleviation. Just as existing research holds important implications for how the military’s efforts may be made more effective, the military’s experience can lead to insight regarding how private and non-profit initiatives could be improved.

Base of the Pyramid Protocol

Funders: DuPont, SC Johnson, Tetra Pak, Hewlett-Packard, Cornell University, University of Michigan, William Davidson Institute, World Resources Institute, and the Johnson Foundation.

Co-Directors: Erik Simanis, Stuart Hart, and Duncan Duke

Dates: 2003-2009
This was an action research program to develop and refine a corporate innovation process geared for the unique challenge of sustainably serving Base of the Pyramid markets.

The initial framework for the BoP Protocol process was developed in 2004 through an intensive four-day design workshop at the Johnson Foundation's Wingspread Conference Center. The workshop brought together a diverse mix of social entrepreneurs and non-governmental organizations, a dozen managers from the project's four corporate sponsors, and thought leaders from various academic fields such as international development, social work, economic anthropology, and design.

Working from this framework, the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise partnered with two corporations to implement the BoP Protocol. The first project was launched in 2005 by S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. in Kenya, and the second was launched in 2006 in India by the Solae Company, a subsidiary of DuPont.

You can download the BoP Protocol, in its entirety via the links below.

The Base of the Pyramid Protocol, 2nd Edition (2008)
The Base of the Pyramid Protocol, 1st Edition (2005)


BE Sustainability

Funder: National Science Foundation’s Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems

Co-PIs: Mark Milstein, Sheri Willoughby, and Elizabeth Kisenwether

Dates: 2006-2007

Funding supported the "Business, Engineering & Sustainability: Building Innovative Programs" workshop. The workshop, which was organized by the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Pennsylvania State University, and the World Resources Institute focused on catalyzing programmatic change in business and engineering education. It brought together leading academics in engineering and business - as well as practitioners from industry, NGOs and government - interested in exploring the potential linkages and opportunities for programmatically bridging these disciplines within the context of sustainable enterprise curriculum development, research, and technology commercialization. This interactive workshop approached academic program building opportunities from three angles, all related to improving educational curriculum: coursework, research, and cross-sector collaborations.


Corporate Initiatives to Serve Poor Markets  


Funder: National Science Foundation’s Innovation and Organizational Change Program

Co-PIs: Stuart Hart and Mark Milstein

Dates: 2002-2006
This longitudinal study was designed to follow six multinational companies as they conceived, proposed, implemented, and expanded or terminated projects aimed at the base of the economic pyramid. This research helped develop a better understanding of organizational innovation and change processes and enabled the generation of theoretical models regarding the causes of initiative success and failure. This work was critical in the development of new knowledge and insights into the organizational processes required for entering low-income markets in a way that generates organizational change and innovation.

A Study on Sustainable Development: Corporate Strategy and Innovation Models for Low-Income Groups

This collaboration with researchers at Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management is funded by the National Science Foundation of China. We are conducting a longitudinal study focused on corporate strategy and innovation models for low-income communities in China.