By William Powell
The past few years have brought a spotlight on businesses, how they choose to operate and where they choose to place their focus. We have seen large organizations with a well seasoned history fade away and simply cease to exist. We have seen companies who have had to change a significant part of their business model just to stay in business. We have also seen certain types of companies thumb their nose at the criticism and continue doing business as usual no matter how destructive for society.
The knee-jerk response for much of the disgust felt from businesses only chasing money is to shake our collective fingers in their faces and try and shame them into better behavior through public pressure and bad PR. While this may have nudged a few businesses into making some token changes, the problem still remains.
As a business owner, I understand and appreciate the need to make a profit. It is the underlying nature, and partial definition, of what a business is. I also understand that just because this is the BASIC definition of business, it doesn’t have to be the minimum standard.
Business can be a force for good in communities. As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain that businesses who begin adding this to how they operate will be the major players in the 21st century. Building community, alleviating poverty and increasing social mobility – in addition to the “traditional” business activities – will become the competitive advantage as we move towards the next decade. Business for the common good.
I believe that by governments, businesses and community leaders working together a solution can be reached. If businesses help alleviate poverty, they are bringing more people into the middle class and off of government assistance. When government has less of a financial burden for social issues, there is less of a need for tax revenue. When more people enter the middle class, there are more people to buy a business’s product or service. When there is less poverty, there is less crime. In short, we have safer and stronger communities.
The problem is the environment in which businesses do business. There is no reward for them doing social good. Sure it’s good PR, but as a business they need something tangible; something that rewards them through of program which acknowledges their legitimate, positive impact on community. An impact on social issues that affect the sustainable betterment of economically disadvantaged people. I believe this is the path we should take…not just as businesses or politicians or community leaders, but as humans. This isn’t just an economic issue, this is a human issue. It is how we view the misfortune (or even the bad decisions) of others and then respond to helping them stand on their own two feet. In a word – dignity.
I believe this so much that I have created a petition addressed to the UN Economic and Social Council. A petition is just a great idea on paper without the support of people like you. If you believe what you have read and want to communicate to businesses and governments that you believe in them and that they can make a difference in a way that works, then let me encourage you to sign this petition. This is not a process with a 1-step solution. This could very well be the first step of many, but we have to at least begin this conversation and this is your chance to do your part.