Beyond Good Company
IN THIS SUMMARY
Executives today are confronted with a paradox. The public holds business leaders in low regard, mistrusts what they say and the motives behind what they do, and sees big companies as too powerful and much more interested in profits than in the welfare of people or the health of the planet. However, executives also understand that the public has increasingly high expectations that business should behave more responsibly, concern itself with environmental sustainability, use its resources and talents to improve society, and address itself to social issues. While the fifty CEOs and other top officials interviewed in Beyond Good Company by the three authors-a social policy expert, an organizational psychologist, and a political scientist-have different views on citizenship and the role of business in society, the majority do agree that companies have a broader set of responsibilities in society beyond maximizing profits. The business leaders interviewed realize that societal factors impinge in many ways on how they do business. The most visionary leaders are taking account of these factors as they contemplate core strategy and design business models. Companies develop their thinking and their practice in this arena in stages. Many companies are still content with making money while complying with laws or conforming to industry standards. By comparison, a growing segment is beginning to be more responsive in dealing with social, ethical, and environmental issues raised about their activities and has a range of policies and programs that address universal and specific concerns. A select number of companies practice next generation corporate citizenship. They adopt a strategic longer-term view of the business-society relationship and bring a socio-commercial mindset to their products, processes, and purpose. Two different sets of ideas exist on how to take a more integrative, strategic approach to the relationship of business and society. One stresses corporate responsibility, accountability, and reporting. This has firms take an accounting of their social and environmental impact in the form of metrics and criteria and manage the business mindful of the triple bottom line (economic, social, and environmental performance). In another less regimented version, companies monitor their activities through the full value chain from raw materials and sourcing through to the consumer and manage the key negative impacts, at minimum, and add value to society through corporate social innovation. Visible, active, top-level leadership appears on every survey conducted by the authors as the number one factor driving citizenship in a corporation. These same surveys have also found that employees,consumers and prospective employees, are gravitating toward companies that are committed to citizenship. The most visionary companies are now engaging employees as citizens: as workers, certainly, but also as members of their families, communities, countries, and the planet. Some select firms are moving from "best practice" to "next practice" in management by taking their people to the heart of the world's problems through journeys to communities- and environments-in-need. Next generation citizenship is shaping companies in three arenas: internal operations; innovative new products and services; and new forms of strategic philanthropy and partnerships between companies and NGOs that are changing the relationship between business and society. "Twenty years ago, the most sophisticated technology and processes were government controlled," said one CEO. "Today they are in business hands, and in multiple business hands, not one company." Select business leaders have a new vision of the roles played by business, government, and NGOs where they increasingly overlap, and business exerts leadership on selected issues by working hand in hand with governments and NGOs to address the challenges of twenty-first century life.