Milton Friedman’s famous article on the social responsibility of a business is a piece that is constantly referred to, discussed and used to bolster arguments. I think it’s a good idea, though, to go back and read the article the whole way through – whether it’s your first time ever doing so or whether you need a refresher on the development of Friedman‘s thought throughout the piece. Unfortunately, this article added fuel to the “profit” fire – a destructive obsession with profits that misses the bigger picture. This obsession is visible on both sides of the issue. Indeed, we have even so far as to connote non-profits with the “good guys” and for-profits as the “bad guys” instead of the simple taxation distinction that it indicates in reality. Andreas often likes to compare profits to the air we breathe – necessary for our survival but not the end-all, be-all of our existence. Profits are essential for a business’ survival, but the business has much more to consider. Michael Fairbanks put forth the COW-F model: taking into account customers, workers and future generations as well as the owners of the business. All of these stakeholders are critical to the success of… Read more
Mathias Pierre is one of SEVEN Fund‘s Pioneers of Prosperity program competitors. His IT company, GaMa Consulting, S.A. provides Internet services to many businesses, schools, government offices, and development agencies in Haiti. He was recently featured in the Wall Street Journal as his business has been serving the numerous aid organizations that have responded to the country’s urgent needs since the earthquake in January 2010. Pierre has an inspiring personal story, and he looks to give back to his community in various ways. Besides providing necessary services to many in his country, Pierre has sought to pass along some of his acquired knowledge to the younger generation. The Wall Street Journal article mentions a recent initiative of Mathias’: the opening of a center to teach business skills to young people. People like Mathias Pierre are inspiring and a reminder of all that can be accomplished in the face of adversity. Pierre has recognized the service that his business can provide to his country through all of these hardships and has risen to the occasion. Truly inspiring!
The World Bank is preparing to publish its final strategy report on Africa’s future in March 2011, and is seeking feedback on the draft strategy that it published in November 2010. I lived in Benin, West Africa for some time and like to keep up on the news there through online newspapers such as La Fraternité. A few days ago, I ran across an article that reminded me of the World Bank’s upcoming final strategy paper. The strategy focuses on three themes: 1. Competitiveness and employment 2. Vulnerability and resilience 3. Governance and Public-Sector Capacity The second one covers Africa’s response to external factors such as economic crises, public health shocks and climate change. The third theme focuses on increasing transparency within African governments and especially on strengthening the legislative and judicial branches of these governments. The competitiveness and employment theme is a very intriguing one. It recognizes the potential of investment and private-sector growth in development assistance and the growing idea that Africa is a destination for business. The report mentions some barriers, including the fact that small and medium enterprises lack access to financing. The strategy would seek to foster wealth creation by encouraging progress in these areas.… Read more
This article ran in the New York Times a several days ago. It’s one of those “Where Are They Now” articles. It details the development of Google.org, or DotOrg as it is often called, over the past several years. DotOrg is the philanthropic or development branch of Google, aimed at tackling huge issues such as global poverty and climate change. The more interesting storyline throughout the article is the clashing between business and development philosophies at Google. The disagreements between the executives at Google and the development experts led to DotOrg devolving into an organization without direction. Larry Page, co-founder of Google, pledged 1 percent of Google’s profits, equity, and employees’ time to philanthropic efforts back in 2004. The creation of DotOrg followed shortly thereafter, but seemed to lack a clear strategy: In the philanthropy world, many people have a more skeptical view of Google’s experiment. “I think there were from the beginning two competing ideas about what DotOrg would be,” said Joshua Cohen, a professor of law, politics and philosophy at Stanford who, after DotOrg was formed, was hired to create seminars to educate Googlers on issues bedeviling developing countries. “The first was a Googley idea that DotOrg would… Read more
33BTU5RJ8NHU – A couple of weeks ago, a conference was held in Nairobi, Kenya at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa to discuss the Economy of Communion model conceived by Chiara Lubich and developed by the Focolare movement. The Economy of Communion is a model in which businesses put their profits in common for the benefit of their community. It’s a relatively decentralized operation, with each community establishing this “culture of giving” first on the local level, and then moving out to the regional, national, and finally international. Economy of Communion (EoC) was conceived in Brazil in 1991 by Chiara Lubich, the founder of the Focolare movement. Existing businesses in Brazil began to either convert to the EoC model, and new businesses were created to participate in this plan. In the twenty years since its initiation, EoC has expanded throughout the globe. Pope Benedict XVI saw EoC as an initiative with promise, and mentioned it as such in his 2009 social encyclical “Caritas in Veritate.” EoC is still gaining traction in Africa, and the goal of the conference held in Nairobi was to promote the “culture of giving” in which EoC engages. Entrepreneurs and business owners gathered together to discuss… Read more
This is the last in a series of installments that together constitute the text for an address delivered by Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei to inaugurate the 15th International Symposium on Ethics, Business and Society on May 16, 2008 on the campus of IESE in Barcelona. The address is titled “Christian Humanism in Business and Management.” The full text can also be found here. Christian Humanism in the Business Leader Christian Humanism goes beyond this structural dimension in management. It must, above all, make an impact on people. I am referring now to those who create and manage companies. Their task requires education, experience, technical skills and — last but not least — the exercise of virtue. The Christian faith teaches everyone the path to these good operational habits and their exercise. In all honesty, it can be said to teach especially those who hold managerial positions. The virtues enrich them not only as persons but also as managers. In this context the exercise of these human virtues (which in Christians are all guided by charity) takes on great importance. I will limit myself to a brief consideration of the need to love and serve others. Caring for… Read more