Are business and love incompatible? Business is all about people, but as long as it focuses purely on wealth creation then we’ll continue to witness fraud and mis-selling scandals. 3 things are necessary to change the current landscape…
I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit sick of mis-selling scandals; whether it be financial products to the elderly or horse-meat to cash-strapped families. But as long as the primary purpose of business remains the creation of shareholder wealth, I’m quite confident that these scandals will repeat themselves in one guise or another for some time to come.
Note that I said ‘primary’ purpose – i.e. the ‘raison d’etre’, the core driver of a business venture. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not opposed to the creation of wealth per se. But when greed drives behaviour that takes advantage of the innocent and preys on the fears of vulnerable people then something’s wrong. The pursuit of profit has to be balanced with the responsibility of business to serve society – to fulfil needs and desires in a way that is honest, doesn’t harm another, and that respects all living beings. In other words, rather than being greed and fear-driven, business can balance wealth creation with love and service. Are the two incompatible?
Simply – no. Business isn’t an abstract entity with systems and processes that are separate from any human intervention. People set up businesses, people manage and lead businesses, and people work in them. In fact, the universal factor across all businesses, all over the world, is that people are core to its existence and its success. I don’t know anybody who gets up in the morning wanting to harm or defraud another. Our core nature is to love – to respect, to serve, to help. So what goes wrong at the collective level?
1. Purpose: the pursuit of wealth – at any cost – is an assumption in certain industries that fundamentally needs to change. This is especially true in industries where short-termism reigns over long-term gains.
2. Transparency: Global supply chains need to be more transparent. Walmart, Gap and H&M were caught ‘unaware’ that their factories in India had contravened fire safety regulation. As I write, Findus are struggling to pinpoint the source of horse-meat in their products. This needs to change.
3. Integrity: Ultimately, it all comes down to a culture of integrity. Integrity in decision-making based on values, as well as price. Integrity in communication. Integrity in how people are treated. This means everyone in the business knowing what to say ‘no’ to, and what the ‘walk away’ point is.
Love and business may on the surface appear incompatible. But they don’t have to be. It takes time, effort and commitment to ‘do the right thing’. While large organisations struggle to implement real and lasting change; as business professionals and consumers, we can lead the way. Ultimately, change starts with you and me – it relies on us speaking out, and voting with our wallets and feet. As the saying goes, the longest journey starts with a single step.