I believe in social businesses. Although Milton Friedman made some good points in his 1970 NYT article on "The Social Responsibility of Business," and the debate has continued since then, recent developments and successful examples of social businesses offer a new perspective.
The question goes back to earliest modern economists and reminds us of the challenges of a free society: who is responsible for social welfare and what is the best way to it?
“Self interest rightly understood” among Americans was described by Tocqueville in 1840 (II.2.8) as: “an enlightened regard for themselves [that] constantly prompts them to assist one another and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.” Investors, owners, and all stakeholders, have long known the advantages of businesses that operate as responsible members of their communities.
Responsibility means being cognizant of the various relationships that make up an economy: relationships with the natural environment, with social and political institutions of cities and towns, and with individual stakeholders -- that is, all who have a stake in the existence of the company, such as employees, other businesses, organizations, neighbors, and shareholders. Profitability is viewed and measured to some extent by its relational successes.
If you are interested in exploring the world of social business and benefit corporations, there are many resources available, and I always love to chat about the possibilities, even for small businesses and idealistic entrepreneurs.
Social Business - Yunus
Benefit Corporations - benefitcorp.net | BCorp
Deloitte Millennial Survey
Fredrick Alexander Website