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It has the illusion of being based on mathe-matical certainty – where there is no such thing – and carries a value judgement that we have a duty to question. People that argue that the duty of CEOs is to maximise profits for shareholders imply that it is possible to know in advance how this is to be done.
At the very least, they carry the implication that it is all about the cash – and any dilemma or problem can be resolved by calculating how it will impact the bottom line in the short term.
Ironically, Karnani quotes auto makers as an example where business interest and social welfare have been aligned.
“Auto makers have profited from responding to consumer demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, a plus for the environment”. Auto makers in the US for years fended off legislation to improve energy efficiency standards, and were supported in so doing because of customer indifference to fuel efficiency during a time of cheap oil.
Profit maximisation as a strategy has been historically poor in actually delivering profit. Few businesses will thrive as little islands of prosperity alone in a sea of deprivation.
This is why, through history, businesses have often supported education.
My mom works with Scott's uncle and she's probably going to be invited to go to the party they're having when they come back to Ilderton. ’ – which they did, of course – they also asked where society, and the science of climate change, was taking us into the future.They created the vehicles that would begin to meet those needs before the customer had actually got there.Companies in other countries – notably Japan – took a different approach.Rather than ONLY asking ‘what does the customer want today?Even, he says, when those governments are weak or corrupt.So, on that basis, those companies like Anglo American who gave AIDS support to their workforce, their families and local communities at a time when the South African government was officially in denial about the disease – these companies were going beyond their brief.And when Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, Wal-Mart hould have sat on its hands and nursed its profits, not mobilised its logistical network to the benefit of the country on the basis that it had a better position to do so than did the federal government.Such a position is to deny that companies are a part of society, and that therefore they have no role as corporate citizens.Without being silly about it, it is time to challenge the absence of values behind such a position. If we want businesses that have values, we can have that. The law of ‘profit maximisation’ is not as immutable as the laws of physics.It may not be the primary role of a business to alleviate poverty, as Karnani says, but it benefits business if poverty is minimised.