What if I was to say to you that “Profit is not the point of business!” Most would probably scream me down with cries of fool, idiot, what are you possibly thinking! Before doing so yourself or passing me by as indeed a fool who knows nothing worth reading bear with me for a short few moments. Indulge me for just a short while and consider this… what if instead I suggest that business has a responsibility to go further than maximising profits but to also maximise the value of the business to its investors by way of a responsibility to sustainability through purpose and social value.
The video below is a presentation at TED in Singapore in October 2013 by Harish Manwani, Chief Operating Officer of Unilever where he suggest exactly what I have put forward.
Certainly new businesses should be reinvesting any profit back into the business by way of new equipment, staff and systems. They should be looking to do so for the first few years so as to maximise the value of the business and the depth and quality of services and products it offers its customers.
I then got to thinking what if more of corporations and companies took a longer term strategy with their business reinvestment strategies where they poured the profits back into things such as Google does maximising the value of the business investment itself as well as the value to the community? Interestingly we are seeing more and more corporations adopting a social conscience and responsibility. Only this morning I watched an interview with Bill Gates and the philanthropic activities he is pursuing on a world scale in conjunction with other businesses and corporations.
Social responsibility for large corporations is more often being seen as part of standard annual company reporting to the investors and shareholders. The world is changing and the way we run our businesses probably needs a paradigm shift as well.
In the video above, Unileaver have extended their social responsibility by redefining their purpose — they are no longer in the business of making and selling soap but instead Unileaver has a larger purpose – To change lives. The simple act of selling soap across the world and educating the poor about the importance of cleanliness can achieve more than a large pharmaceutical company. This is an excellent example of how brands can be at the forefront of social change.
You might argue that this is all fine for large companies and not practical for smaller companies. I put it to you that maybe if we all reconsider how we brand our businesses in terms of social value whether this could create a more positive outcome. Of course you would have to be totally genuine in your value statement as the purpose of your brand is that it defines your values, who you ae and what you are about. You must live the brand.
Written by: Greg Tomkins