The primary purpose of business has been to make a profit. However, the pursuit of profit without equal consideration for people, and the planet, has led to over-consumption of natural resources, environmental degradation, and the violation of basic rights.
Companies that exploit people, or the planet, for short-term gain (often only to produce cheap, unhealthy products that pollute the environment, and offer little value) are increasingly being exposed on social media and boycotted by today’s consumers.
Many companies falsely portray themselves as environmentally and socially conscious (“greenwashing”). They show a lack of consistent ethics, empathy, and transparency in their treatment of consumers, employees, communities, and the environment. These companies are at an ever-increasing risk of losing the trust and support of the public. Consumers are becoming increasingly skeptical of businesses that do not follow through on their CSR and ESG promises.
It is not enough anymore for companies to solely donate to charity; they must infuse their values and CSR initiatives into all areas of their business practices. For instance, a business or charity that works to help people living in poverty, but does not pay a living wage to its own employees, could be seen as inauthentic by the public.
We have seen the primitive side of human beings (e.g. competitiveness, one-upmanship, greed, predatory business practices, exploitation for short-term gain, etc.) but human beings are individually, and collectively, capable of much more than this (e.g. empathy, ethics, collaboration, conscience, etc.).
In the end, each one of us is faced with a choice.
Business relationships should have a win-win result, where all parties involved are mutually benefiting, including employees, consumers, communities, leaders, investors, and the planet—this is the art of sustainability.
Predatory business practices involve the exploitation of people, and/or the planet, and will always result in a win-lose. In a dynamic where one side loses, there is no long-term sustainability—one side is eventually depleted or destroyed.
Purpose-driven business leaders are not only social/environmentally responsible, they also have a mission to use business as a means of improving the world. They offer products and services that enhance the well-being of society; and incorporate a social/environmental cause into their brand, mission/vision statement, business practices, and marketing plan. They also network with other companies and suppliers who share a similar business philosophy.
Entrepreneurs have the power to create a better world.