“Giving Back”

“Giving Back” is not a concept that we usually associate with good business practices. Traditional economics places business objectives at odds with societal needs. Businesses are supposed to maximize profits no matter what the social cost. Corporate greed, ecological degradation, exploitation of workers … none of this matters if what is valued is being bigger and controlling more resources than one’s competitors.

We are learning, though, that conducting business with no regard for stakeholder impact is both irresponsible and ultimately unrewarding. Our businesses are an integral part of the communities in which they operate. We depend on the availability of skilled workers to staff our businesses, competitive inputs, and a thriving community of customers to purchase our goods and services. If we, as businesses, only take without giving back, we will eventually be out of business. The traditional distinction between business and society is clearly untenable.

Many businesses have launched social responsibility programs. These may include recycling and other approaches for reducing their carbon footprint. Or they may include staff volunteer activities or charitable donations. These types of initiatives are an excellent starting point.

What we need to do proactively, if we are to have both profitable companies and vibrant communities, is to consciously design our business strategies so that they meet at least some of our communities’ pressing needs. As business people, we need to deliberately “give back.” And, in our communities, we need to work towards win-win strategies that consider how best to have a positive outcome for all parts of a community.

The White Paper, “Giving Back”: Aligning Business Strategies with Community Needs” by Dr. Riddle, can help stimulate strategic ideas.

Forthcoming: Profiting by “Giving Back”: Aligning Business Strategies with Community Needs (forthcoming) Re-examines business management and marketing perspectives from the perspective that we are all interconnected and are essentially dealing within an extended family.