The premise is that businesses derive wealth by using society’s resources and that they are therefore duty bound to invest back in to the society. Not only finance but expertise and goodwill.
The free market in its raw sense presupposes the need for profit maximisation. The more profit an organisation makes the more tax it is expected to pay. Hence more resources are made available to the state to spend on education, the NHS, welfare and other benevolent causes. However, corporate responsibility extends to supporting the workforce, the environment, and human rights as a whole. Businesses that sell products should be conscious of the supply chain process. Was child labour involved in the production of the product or any of its components? Does the manufacture of the product involve the use of hazardous chemicals harmful to humans, animals or the environment?
Conscious businesses lead to conscious consumers. We consider whether a product is manufactured ethically or fairtrade. To the extent that conscious consumption enhances one’s enjoyment of a product or service. We have moved from tribes, to races, to countries, to nation states, to continents and finally to a global village. Where we are beginning to recognise that that which divides us can never be greater than what unites us as a single human race.
The concept of responsibility presumes an obligation not necessarily a choice. Though compassion flows from the understanding that to give is to receive. Compassion gives meaning and substance to life. Money in itself is paper yet it can buy experiences which in turn produce positive emotions. Acts of kindness towards a person who will never be able to pay you back emanate from the profoundest wisdom that humanity is united in its capability of experiencing pain and pleasure. With perhaps the gift or curse of sharing these feelings with others.
I started my housing business with the ambition of becoming a millionaire. But simultaneously my vision was to contribute to the elimination of homelessness in London. So much so that I used to direct homeless people in London’s Soho to my properties. Where they would enjoy initial rent free periods. To this day I do not charge my tenants deposits, or administration or tenancy fees, neither do I seek bank or character references. My logic is that many people are homeless today because they can not access the initial rental deposit or do not have sufficiently good references. In spite of the fact that many people thought I could never survive in the property market in this way in 22 years I have proven my business model works. The average duration of a tenancy for one of my properties is 40 months as compared to the London average of 18 months. I therefore enjoy fewer voids compared to other landlords and thus the propensity for people to stay longer in my properties is higher so is the likelihood they will treat the property as a home rather than just shelter. Resulting in perhaps fewer maintenance issues arising.
Compassion is the science of sciences. For each of us to be compassionate in our workplace is a great challenge. We often perceive customers as unreasonable. It is not easy to maintain fairness when those we encounter are seeking to take advantage of us or to profit from our kindness. At the same time we develop true character when we try to empathise with the most challenging of people by recognising that they too are a product of their experience. If you knew the story of a person’s life you would possibly judge them less harshly. Nobody is born racist, or violent, or dishonest it is society that turns them that way.
Casino capitalism produced the recent credit crunch, and in fact every other recession. Compassionate capitalism gives us the opportunity to conceive success not only in terms of profit but social contribution. Bill Gates, through the medium of Rotary has almost single handedly wiped out polio. Saving literally millions of lives and preventing untold unimaginable pain and suffering . But small acts of kindness from the sole trader to the multinational corporation together can transform the quality of life of all of us and drive moral and social progress. Maybe the first and foremost entrepreneurial vision should be to make your community, and even your world a better place because of the product, service or business you have created.