Sunday, May 06, 2007

Saving the world and making money at the same time

There is an interesting article in The New York Times by Stephanie Strom entitled "Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World" concerning the blurring of the boundaries between profit-oriented businesses and organizations focused on social benefits, the environment, change, socially responsible corporate governance, sustainable development, and other aspects of improving the lives of real people. This is still a nascent effort to "harness capitalism" and has risks of significant downside, but also has great potential for dramatic upside on both the financial and social fronts.

From where I sit, the issue is not about some "aging hippie types" attempting seizing control, but young, fresh MBAs and clean-slate entrepreneurs who have a passion for the social side of life without being blinded by outdated political dogma that was so common among The Left in the 1960's. The act of making money was never the source of evil, but rather the lack of passion for improving lives while pursuing money was the root of so many evils.

The key here is not a bunch of left-wing nuts, but a shift of the hard-core mainstream form being by-the-book bureaucrats to focusing on making money from social change, which social change being a core passion.

For now, businesses with such a "focus" are considered a distinct "fourth sector", but I suspect this is simply because we are not quite "there" in terms of a transition for the mainstream. Give it another five years, and then we may see some significant socially-minded businesses doing things like manufacturing cars, running communications networks, and generating and distributing electricity.

-- Jack Krupansky


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