Great article on WorldChanging by Joel Makower, entitled Milton Friedman and the Social Responsibility of Business which repeats Friedman’s view that the sole purpose of business is to generate profit for shareholders…and that responsible business is therefore uncompetitive, costly and a distraction from their core obligation.
As Makower points out, we now know this to be nonsense: that ignoring environmental and social issues can be bad for business, and that this trend is only increasing. Want to recruit new graduates? Want to not poison/pollute your customers? Want to have raw materials to use in ten years time? Want to retain employees? And so on. If a company isn’t thinking in these kind of ways in this day and age, it will soon be left behind….better to be ahead of the curve than trying to claw your way up it over the next decade.
And that goes for big and small business: I enjoyed judging the CAF CCI awards recently, an enjoyment tempered only by how few SMEs enter the awards, a topic we discussed afterwards. So much discussion of CSR revolves (understandably) around the big boys that there is probably need for a corrective of some sort. I was interested to run across Small Business Journey the other day, which is an interesting way for "small businesses to realise more value by behaving responsibly". Value of all types…
A few more corporate social responsibility pieces to end with:
– Fast Company have dished out their 2007 Social Capitalist Awards to, slightly bizarrely, 43 organisations (why 43? a secret homage to 43 Things and 43 Folders?)….mainly US-focused as ever, but worth reading some of their gumph as well, including their take on why this is all important: "A More Powerful Path"
– A post linking to some debates about Product Red (iPod, AmEx etc. raising money for HIV); interestingly, there was someone on the radio this morning discussing how we should be giving African countries an army rather than aid…will try and find the link…..