We Are Far Now From Milton Friedman’s Prevailing View on CSR in 1970 – Companies Are Showing the Way – Here Are 5 Examples
G&A's Sustainability Highlights (19.12.2017)
The stage was set in 1970 by Professor Milton Friedman, who wrote in a New York Times Magazine essay: The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits. He famously said in conclusion: “here is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use it resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud."
Over the ensuing decades, advocates for greater corporate accountability, responsibility and sustainability pushed back – with great vigor. Over time, more companies adopted well thought out strategies and tactics to become more socially / societally responsible… leading to today’s fulsome embrace by the corporate sector of CR or CSR.
Forbes magazine commentator Marissa Peretz (writing from California) brings us examples of “environmentally-friendly business endeavors” that demonstrate profit can exist alongside sustainability and the successful corporate business model. Her examples are Fair Harbor (apparel); Nest Bedding; Paladino and Company (consulting); Under the Canopy; and B Corp Natura Brasil.
(1) Fair Harbor makes sustainable boardshorts and men’s swimwear from 11 recycled plastic bottles (including recycled ocean plastic harvested in Haiti).
(2) Nest Bedding, a family-owned business, creates “sustainable bedding and mattresses for more healthy living.
(3) Paladino and Company’s buildings have a positive environmental impact by helping other companies reduce their carbon footprint (the firm works with architects and developers to design buildings “that make a difference).
(4) Natura Basil is a Brazilian company now operating in the United States; it works with its supplier communities back in the Amazon (not the shopping giant!) to promote preservation of endangered forests.
(5) Under the Canopy uses six
(6) types of third party certifications whose metrics include use of harmful substances and other critical practices in its apparel and bedding.
All of these firms, the author tells us, have lessons learned and share that environmentally-friendly business endeavors can still be profitable. So take that, you remaining Friedman advocates – the corporate world is moving on without you.
Here at G&A Institute, we monitor more than 1,500 corporate responsibility, sustainability, citizenship and similarly-titled reports. A sizable number are identified as “CR” reports and tell the stories of a wide (and encouraging) range of strategies and tactics of USA, UK and Republic of Ireland corporate entities. The data sets and narratives make clear that senior executives understand well the importance of corporate responsibility in their disclosures. They make the business case, the supply chain case, the investor case…and more!
The five firms profiled in the Forbes piece below are to be congratulated for their contributions to society – and the dual quest for greater CR and profitability.
Author Peretz is founder of Silicon Beach Talent in LA; she was “recruiting leader” at Tesla Motors.