Episode 18 – Responsibility

The word responsibility may not incite visions of carefree, fun-filled days but it is an important term that we all face throughout our daily lives. Whether it is taking care of your family, work, or paying bills, responsibility guides our decision-making process. The same can be said of the professional world where businesses and organizations strive to reach their goals and earn a profit. Along the way, these entities will formulate plans and operating philosophies that may have a profound impact on society and the planet. In this regard, are considerations such as the three Ps (e.g., people, planet, profit) tangential or integral in the running of the business?

Determining the responsibility of businesses to their communities, employees, and customers is a major concern in social entrepreneurship. After all, these are major avenues towards social value creation—a bedrock of the field. Still, there are some schools of thought that say a business’s number one responsibility is to its shareholders and that there should be no added impetus to better society.

Jerrid brings up Starbucks as an example of a business that is generally on the right side of the responsibility debate. Starbucks has generated goodwill through its fair trade programs that pay coffee growers a living wage. Arguably, the wages could be more, but Star Bucks is on the right track. Starbucks also pays for part-time employees to have health insurance and have partnered with Arizona State University to offer its employees the opportunity to earn a Bachelor’s degree. While Starbucks is not a social enterprise, its actions show strives to be socially responsible.

The question is why. Why do companies such as Starbucks invest time and money in their employees and societal betterment when others do not? There is no responsibility overlord dictating what must be done so what gives them the onus?  For one, today’s consumers even more so than previous generations are more concerned with the planet, treatment of people, and the well-being of their communities. Therefore, it makes business sense for companies to be mindful of issues that are important to their customer base. Courtney, for one, would pay an extra buck or two for a drink Starbucks to support the company’s social value endeavors.

 

With that being said, not all companies have made the shift to social responsibility. This may be a matter of short-term versus long-term business goals. If a business is focused on the short term, the treatment of its labor force may not be as paramount as long as profits are good.

However, this type of philosophy has a shelf life. Eventually, fissures will appear as morale declines and outside forces such as the environment and economy come to the forefront. At this point, external pressure may force the company to reevaluate its responsibilities.

In the end, it is society’s responsibility to look after society’s needs. If we, the people, place value on the three Ps of people, profit, and the planet, businesses will ultimately follow our lead.

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