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Can a Company Be Socially Responsible as Well as Profitable?


“Can you Serve Two Masters” is the title to an article published by Mrs Moneypenny. 

She had attended a conference in Davos where the subject was about socially responsible capitalism–in other words, can a company be socially responsible as well as profitable? Under one corporate structure, is it possible to make the shareholders happy according to their standards as well as provide the means to care for humanity and the well-being of others? A debate between economic return vs. social return and can the two co-exist under one “ruler-ship”. 

I have this love for words and language. And I become especially interested in a written piece when I notice that the words being used to express an idea or concept become displaced or confusing. For instance, in the debate between economic return and social return, two words in particular jumped out at me… “contribute” and “investment”.  And in keeping with the subject at hand, another word for “contribute” is “gift”.

There was a member in the Davos audience that believed “commercial companies should state their social responsibility goals and be held to account by shareholders if they did not achieve them.”  And I ask, to what extent? To see if the company’s “gift” undermined their economic return? Then in my opinion, the “contribution” wasn’t really a gift. If this gift in some way ‘took away from’ the bottom line,then the gift was an “investment” and the investment failed to meet expectations. What was the primary motivating factor for giving the money? A return on investment or to enhance the well-being of another?  If the desire is to create a healthier and happier world and we take action from that place, can we trust that the money would follow?

So, which is it…a “gift” or an “investment”?

In my mind, it can only be one or the other. A“gift” is that which you offer freely, without expectation of return and absent of fear of loss or resentment. An “investment” on the other hand, has the expectation of return/reward. Perhaps in response to the accountability of social responsibility goals, what could be measured is the value the “contribution/gift” made in the lives of the benefactors.  I am of the belief that to give and receive are the same–to give IS to receive, therefore the overall benefits cannot be quantified solely by dollars and economics. One must look at how these gifts enriched the lives and souls of those that received the contribution. When we take this perspective, the gifts and rewards become priceless and the “giver” becomes the “gifted”. 

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