Do all businesses provide a social good?

“All entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship, just as all business helps provide a social good. The moment we come to accept that, the clearer our view will be of how entrepreneurship can help better our nation and our society,” opines Ray Hennesey at Entrepreneur.

He continues:

History has proven beyond argument that companies provide a social and societal good. If anything, instances of corporate malfeasance – Union Carbide in India, the fraud of Enron, and the prevaricating poltroons who sold us Sham-Wows – are the exception, not the rule. The villains with the black hats are indeed the black swans of corporate and capitalist behavior. Most companies are the cats who didn’t get stuck in the tree, so they don’t warrant our attention.

But, for some reason, entrepreneurs themselves have never felt comfortable with capitalism, at least not how it’s positioned in cocktail-party discourse or the mainstream media. So they started calling themselves “social entrepreneurs” or saying they practice “conscious capitalism” (implying, naturally, that all other capitalism was unconscious). Buy our shoes and we will make sure poor kids get a pair, too. Buy our fishing lures and we will save a snail darter.

Today’s Question: Do all businesses provide a social good?

  • PaulJ

    What is good is subjective, it depends on if you want your asset converted.

  • John Dilligaf

    I certainly couldn’t say that 100% of businesses provide a social good, but the vast majority of them do. People on both ends of a transaction are voluntarily exchanging this for that – cash for kumquats, credit cards for crepes. If either person thought they were getting a completely raw deal, they could walk away from the transaction. Now, the drug dealer on the corner exchanging cocaine for cash – is he providing a social good? I don’t see it that way. The libertarian in me says live and let live; what you do to yourself is your own business, but the rest of me says it’s wrong and providing social harm.

    Overall, capitalism has helped raise the standard of living for more people than any other economic system in the world, so on the whole, I’d have to agree with Mr. Hennesey.

  • Jim G

    Not all businesses provide a social good.The latest example of the antithesis of social entrepreneurship was exposed at an amazing number of NYC’s nail salons last week. The entrepreneurs who require Korean women to pay $200.00 for the opportunity give manicures and pedicures and then pay them little or nothing for their labor are not providing a social good. They are part of an exploitive criminal organization and should be treated as one. Entrepreneurs and mining companies need to be regulated to ensure they don’t exploit their workers or foul our rivers, streams, and lakes with pollutants. It’s a lesson that every citizen learns…sooner or later

  • MnDoc

    Business that relies upon illegals is the root of the problem as those illegals can not speak up.

  • theoacme

    Absolutely not – to the extent that they do not pay a living wage to their employees, and overpay their bourgeois greedy leaders, they are a social evil, a group of terrorists, and an immediate and irremediable threat to my life.

    • Gary F

      You tell’em Hugo Chavez!

    • Pearly

      Why no rape talk today?

    • whitedoggie44

      what is great about the US is everyone has the right to be an idiot.

  • MNDoc

    Ack_ so called “Social good” matters in business because? Business is to make money..period.
    Please, some one define “social good” before there is any discussion to be aired..but wait! There’s more..NPR and the rest of the crowd won’t even define
    these other terms before making wild assertions; e.g., “the war on women because some don’t believe in killing unborn babies? “climate change” based on what data across the globe at which time period chosen_ 1300’s or 1800’s or 2000?
    or the so called ” income inequality.” Seriously? Income inequality only applies to the outcome of communism where everyone is dirt poor except for a few top super wealthy leaders as we see in North Korea and China. But_ I admit, this term sure can get low informed voters to rally with the socialist types.

  • Sue de Nim

    No, not all. The tobacco industry is one clear counterexample.

    The author of the cited comments is partially correct, in that capitalism does more good than harm overall, as long as it’s adequately regulated. The trouble is, markets have no conscience, except to the extent that getting a bad reputation is bad for business, which is not much of a deterrent to most bad business behavior. History has shown that without proper regulation, capitalism runs amok, with the rich exploiting the poor, powerful companies preying on weak ones, and industrial activity fouling our common nest with its effluent. With proper regulation, with just enough redistribution to prevent the rise of a plutocratic oligarchy, and with a social safety net adequate to prevent anyone from being utterly destitute, free-market capitalism is key to widely shared prosperity.

  • lindblomeagles

    The problem isn’t with business. They know they are “IN IT FOR THE MONEY.” The problem is US. Too many American people and, especially the Republican Party, INSIST businesses provide social goods even though there has never been any evidence to support that. Any FOOL can point to the automobile and say, “Hey, Ford helped society travel better and in comfort no doubt.” Ford wasn’t thinking about anything but making money. Moreover, the health industry has VERIFIED that too much behind the wheel driving is unhealthy for us. Toss in the environmentalists who discovered back in the 1980s that car exhaust was dangerous to us too, the case for the social good the car gave us starts to diminish quickly. Moreover, as the cost of the car and its insurance go up, its added more bills to a workforce whose living wages have receded since Nixon. How good is this social good? If you don’t have a car, you’re frequently limited employment and health wise because society gave up on the horse; thus, the car is not a social good anymore – its a necessity. But, like I said, every 4 years, some politician gets up way too eager to stump for business, and an equally uninspiring flock of nincompoops nods their heads approvingly while clapping voraciously. Even dumber still, businesses are always trying to cut costs, and that usually means, the employees. Some people point to nonprofits as an illustration of business’s social good. Well I’ve worked for 5 nonprofits. There’s no social good there either. Million and billionaires COULD give more money to causes. Instead, they have all the nonprofits fight over the small amount they are willing to part with, AND CHANGE who they will give money too just because they feel like it. Businesses know why they are here. It’s us, THE VOTERS, who haven’t figured that out yet.

  • David P.

    If by “all” you mean “every”, then my answer is a resounding NO.
    Child porn, human trafficking, meth manufacturing and dealing, piracy, pimping, gambling, tobacco, “Saturday Night Specials”, anti-personnel mines… These are examples of businesses that while profitable, do not, in my opinion, provide a social good.