Role of Corporations Today

Denial of a human-centric world and its impact on the planet since the industrial revolution is no longer an acceptable worldview.

 

In March, we reached the point of no return, the point where most credible international scientists agree that damage will be unprecedented and relentless. As we have surpassed global CO2 concentrations at 400 Parts Per Million (PPM), let’s make this alarm a time for changing the purpose of business.

 

Start close to home. What kind of planet do we want to leave our neighbors’ children, our grandchildren, and future generations? Every purchase we make, every action we take or don’t take, are decisions with future implications on the health of the earth.

 

Given the power of lobbyists, we cannot trust the political system to fix our planet and culture. If we could, we could have trusted that we would not have hit the 400 PPM mark.

 

The proven trend of Values-based companies points out another path: Conscious Capitalism. This growing movement rewards those who “do well by doing good”—and their average return is much greater than other companies in their space. Here are a handful for your consideration: The Honest Company, Whole Foods, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Interface Carpets, for example. Such companies measure their profit by more than money alone; they actively integrate people, financial profit, and the planet as a tripe-bottom line principle.

 

With the earth in such a perilous state, we should look for these types of organizations to guide us out of this quagmire, as well as looking at companies trying to build infrastructure that is more sustainable, such as Telsa and Suntech.

 

What is the role of business today, if not to help renew the planet and its people who made their success possible?

 

Is the goal really just money, even at this crisis state? Look at it another way: do we really need the 95% of new products that are launched each year that fail and end up in landfills? The rate of production has increased, but the market and the planet simply cannot take the gloat.

 

As author and teacher Hank Wesselman predicted several decades ago when the first signs of climate change were visible, “I believe that those most capable of determining the nature of the resource base and the management of it are the transnational corporations. These economic giants have created a privately run world economy in which they now control the global flow of materials, energy, and capital. The time has come for them to take responsibility for the survival of the human species. …   There is a design flaw in the way we now do business, but if we correct it, we may yet save ourselves.”

 

So, I am calling on innovators, business leaders, and you to fight the good fight. Life is worth preserving.

 

What do you think the role of a corporation should be today?

 

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.