This morning I listened to a really compelling conversation on “Fixing Capitalism” on NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook. The synopsis and full audio recording can be found here.
Many of the points made in this conversation resonated with me – reflecting ideas that I’ve held for all of my professional life, but really took form in my early teens. It always amazed me that the drive for greater and greater profit would lead companies to exploit the very resources that were essential to their business to the point of depletion and/or utter destruction. Set aside the mindless-buzz-word connotation that from terms like “sustainability” and we’ll see a simple and obvious truth at work: you can’t sell something you don’t have, you can’t produce something from nothing, you can’t take from what is no longer there.
According to Michael Porter (see article above), companies stand to save millions of dollars by recycling unused and left over materials rather than dumping them. Companies can increase revenue with business models that address social and environmental needs, rather than with business models that only satisfy consumer wants (or manufacturing consumer wants to sale a needless product – that one really irritated me when I was a child since kid-products are made of this).
Sustainability, giving back to the community, resource sharing, social action – all of these things promote business – but they’re also just good common sense. My business does well when my clients do well, when my community does well and when my environment does well. I refuse to follow the broken way of doing things – the “take the money and run” mentality. Business is more than just making profit – it’s a way to benefit by benefiting others. In doing so I gain something far more than valuable than money – I gain a good reputation, client loyalty and the peace of having not just a conscience, but a clean one.
Yeshua Ha-Mashiach said it best, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?“