As an economics major in college I was taught, “The purpose of business is to make profits.” As a law student, I learned if leaders of publicly-traded corporations took their eyes off that ball, they would be violating their duty to their shareholders. As a lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency, I saw so many companies putting profits ahead of the environment and the health and well-being of their neighbors, I didn’t think there was any other way.
But of course there is. More and more, businesses are taking a broader look at how you get to the bottom line or are even changing the definition of the bottom line. For some reason, the line in James Michener’s “Hawaii” about missionaries who went to Hawaii, “to do good and ended up doing well,” has always stuck with me. Under a variety of guises, these businesses are turning this on its head, showing they can, “do well by doing good.”
Some of the more formal models include “Conscious Capitalism,” which argues business can and should be done with a higher purpose in mind — creating values for others, not just profits. The purpose could include public service, the pursuit of knowledge or beauty, or work to change the world — keeping in mind the needs of all of their stakeholders: customers, suppliers, workers and neighbors.
“Triple Bottom Line” proposes companies make decisions based on three different bottom lines: (1) traditional corporate profit; (2) how socially responsible an organization has been throughout its operations with respect to people; and (3) how environmentally responsible it has been.
“Business for Social Responsibility” believes the role of business is to provide products and services in a way that treat people fairly and encourage a sustainable future. Similarly, “B Corps” are certified to meet standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.
Does it work? Look at Ben and Jerry’s. Ben and Jerry’s was a single ice cream shop in Burlington, Vermont, in the early 1980s. By 1984, the company instituted new policies — including donating 7.5 percent of profits to charities and limiting the CEO’s salary to five times that of the lowest paid employee.
These practices were so unusual they made headlines across the country — and also sales, which increased from $4 million to $132 million over seven years. This is a great example of a company who has proved you can “do well by doing good.”
Jade is committed to making the world’s best performing, most environmentally friendly yoga products and giving back to the earth with every product sold. Through its “Buy a Mat, Plant a Tree” program, Jade has planted over one million trees so far. Through its “Community Partners” program, Jade provides mats to many nonprofit organizations and donates a portion of sales to environmental organizations, veterans’ organizations and other worthy causes. For more information visit jadeyoga.com.