Profit with purpose

We live in times when even the most mature democratic societies are deeply divided. One segment of society blames the other for all evils. We seem to be trapped in digital ‘echo-chambers’, not listening or interested in the arguments of those with opposing opinions. And even if we do listen, it has become common to dismiss opposing views as ‘fake news’.

We are losing connection with our planet due to our plastic-fuelled disposable habits. Technology is impacting every area of our lives and everything is changing.

I was born in industrial Silesia (southern Poland) in the 1960s and lived through the dark ages of communism whilst listening to my grandparents’ horror stories of fascism. I find it worrying that young people nowadays are looking to the extreme right or left for answers to the current problems.

An evolution of capitalism is needed with a more expansive role for business in the current era; one that offers solutions to the wider challenges of society beyond a narrow focus on profits for shareholders. Indeed, well-functioning businesses can, and should, contribute to the development of the country, region and local communities with a clear responsibility to preserve and improve the natural environment. With responsible leadership, business provides goods and services that customers need, it helps develop infrastructure, it provides jobs and, through payment of taxes, funding for schools, hospitals and communities. This must be the substance of the ‘deal’ between business and society.

It is unsustainable for more and more wealth to benefit the few, and for business owners (and top management teams) to be anonymous and distant from their local communities and without accountability.

It is right for the morality of business to be challenged on environmental impacts, aggressive methods of generating consumption, employment practices, privacy and security of personal data and related topics.

It is time for businesses to recognise that their most important stakeholders are the communities in which they operate – and the purpose of business is to contribute to the wealth of both shareholders and communities.