Business! Do No Harm

It seems that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has gone quiet since the recent world crisis but it’s alive and well and probably even more important that before. For a term in use since the 1970s, it’s still powerful and clear in its role: To integrate self-regulation into your business model to benefit both society and the company. Today, most of the world’s top companies have started a CSR programmes and revamped many of their business practices to comply with regulations and stakeholder’s expectations (quite a few times against their will.) Smaller companies have integrated many of its principles and start-ups are created purely on CSR principles, leading to the advent of a new business category: The social enterprise. Is it worth it? The controversy around CSR is till here. Some argue for and show all the tangible and intangible benefits companies receive. Others argue against it claiming that it distracts from the true value of business (optimum profitability) and the benefits of free market competition.  The truth, as always, is somewhere in the middle. A non-competitive world is not a good one. Ideological manifestos have proven to hurt more than benefit.  A non-competitive company, one that doesn’t make money, cannot contribute to society either. While it’s true that businesses should focus on developing products that we need, we, as consumers, continuously defy logic and demand to be amazed, to be wooed by things we’ll treat as junk tomorrow, wondering endlessly what we were thinking when we made that purchase. Just as businesses of the industrial revolution set themselves to profit from the world, and greed settled in quickly, their impact changed us forever creating both the new advances we all benefit from today as well as the ills we suffer from. In the past forty years, we’ve moved from the concept of working because we have to, to working because we want to (and even that is not a universal concept.) The advent of the social role of business as a change factor is coming slowly and is a painful exercise, it might take a Century but it’s worth it and can’t be stopped. Business is a supply chain At each step of that chain, there are ways to make business more efficient, more effective. Business already has shown many successes to prove the value of their efforts. That’s not the issue. The issue is that we, as consumers, continuously demand knick-knacks, and as long as there is demand, there’ll be a supplier. Logic as often nothing to do with it as few of us actually know what we need or want till we see it. Sometimes it’s for the better, but more often than not, it’s for the worse. So we cumulate, we hoard, we destroy and dispose as if there was no tomorrow. The consumption society, while battered and bruised, has not died and is reinforced by the thousands slowly coming out of poverty who will not be denied the right to consume. Why should they be deprived of a pleasure that more advanced society are unable to tame? Businesses know how to create demand and respond to consumer changes. Such knowledge can be used to match social and business needs. The problem is neither the processes nor the technology, it’s the will to do so when pressured by shareholders who demand dividends first and social responsibility later. Business, and society as whole, needs to come to terms on how to marry the two. So consumers keep on consuming and producers keep on producing. The increase in world population, the many third-world countries slowly coming-out of their shell, will exacerbate that even further. The good news is that the youth is more aware, more in touch with their impact than their previous generation who’ve tried to add CSR to ‘business as usual.’ For these future leaders, CSR is business as usual. We have to wonder if every businessman took an oath before they start a business along the line of ‘Do no harm.” This would be radical move and change the entire world (and the nature of business all together) but we might me getting too far ahead of ourselves. To find out more about CSR programs and how you can effectively begin one, write to us at

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