Try googling the phrase, “businesses should put something back into society.” Philip Booth, writing in the latest issue of the Journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs got 21.7 million hits. I tried it, and got over 30 million. So the idea must be growing in popularity by the minute.
As Booth points out, “giving back to society” is the fundamental idea behind most discussions of corporate responsibility. But it’s fair to ask, don’t businesses by their very nature give to society? Certainly, every profitable business, by definition is giving something to society that people want – indeed, something they want so much they’re willing to pay for it. They might even be willing to work for the money to pay for it, thereby doubly benefiting society.
The primary flaw in most thinking about corporate responsibility is that it assumes that all profit-making corporations are rapacious predators (on the environment, natural resources, the disadvantaged – you fill in the blank). CR thus becomes, effectively, a way of paying reparations for their otherwise nasty behavior.
It’s pretty certain, however, that the people who invented and are continually refining the computer chip (to give one example) have done more for human well-being and happiness, as well as the environment, the husbanding of natural resources and the disadvantaged (you fill in the blank) than all the CR campaigns since the beginning of the world put together — and they all did it to make a profit.