Supporters of Shareholder Capitalism will have you believe that the sole and indeed the social responsibility of business is to deliver shareholder return.
That will take care of everything else – employment, thriving communities, economic growth.
They argue that by making profit the sole focus, wealth will trickle down to everyone else.
At best that is a naive view.
At worst it’s a cynical manipulation to shore up wealth and power for the few over the many and to give the green light to unethical practices that provide short-cuts to profit. No argument from me that profit is absolutely vital for a business to succeed. But the idea that it is the sole driving purpose of business is simply no longer acceptable. As the planet cries out for help, the idea of business-as-usual has become repellent to many of us.
Despite this, most people feel like they are too small to change anything. How do you fight the system? My belief is that you don’t fight the system. The “system” is too big.
Don’t misunderstand me. The system is not too big to change. The idea of “trying to change” something as massive as a global economic system is too big.
Here is what you can change.
You can change yourself, how you operate.You can listen to your internal dialogue, your narrative, your world view. You can get clear on who you are. What matters to you. Then you can start your change with the actions you take that align with your identity.
Let’s start with your business. This could be a business you lead. It could be a business you own, or a business you work at. It starts with asking yourself one simple question:
Are we making better things in our business? Or are we making things better?
Take a moment to reflect on that question. I believe it’s one of the most important questions each of us in business need to give serious consideration to today.
We’re so caught up in the robotics of progress and delivering the next new shiny thing, the next innovation; the next thing that delivers on the customer “need” and gives us a competitive edge, but I wonder how often we actually ask ourselves – will this make things better for someone? The idea of “need” has become so manipulated today and we simply accept it.
Bottom line, the world NEEDS solutions. Our planet NEEDS solutions. Vulnerable members of society NEED solutions. In a post-pandemic world, there is a stark reality that we must all face. Governments are not equipped to solve these problems alone. Business can and must step up. Collaboration between all of our major institutions - business, government, NGOs and media – is essential to rebuilding our societies, if we hope to thrive in the future.
Some business leaders have recognised this and are stepping up and becoming the leaders we need. If there ever was a great need, it is that we stop manufacturing new “needs” and start looking at the true needs that are begging for solutions.
So. How are you making things better?