When Did Good Business Behavior Become Optional?

I spend a good portion of each day talking and writing about the benefits of socially-driven business and showing companies how to take part, but I never took a step back to think about when this message became necessary. When did we have to modify capitalism with ‘Cause’ or ‘Conscious’ to mean a company that is aware of its community and treats its community citizens, customers and employees well?

At what point did we come to expect so little of businesses that when they stretch a little (by offering toxic-free work environments or fair wages), we high-five them? Sure, there’s been an uptick in our expectations within the last decade but why did it sink before that?

Historically, scale and community made businesses accountable, which gave them a social awareness. Communities were small enough to talk about any exploitation and malfeasance and buy from across the street instead. Many businesses were family staffed, which augmented their sensitivity and commitment to their neighborhood or town.

Our current source of accountability is social media. It’s the new coffee counter at the neighborhood cafe. We as consumers are able to have similar conservations about which businesses we prefer in terms of price, quality and community perception. The difference is that now we can have more detailed conversations on a broader scale about price, quality and global community perception.

So while I’ll continue to think, talk and write about the genius of socially-driven businesses, I’m glad I was able to pause to think about when this became a non-expectation or un-requirement for business.

I welcome your thoughts. Corporate social responsibility is still subjective in all its objective data points and success stories. Its shaped by our personal perceptions and experiences. I was raised by liberal parents in the greedy 80s and grew up thinking that to be associated with business, corporations or wealth was somewhat undesirable. After launching Cause Capitalism, I talked to my artist father about my mission to use business to change the world for the better. He got that, but (as I had anticipated) asked if perhaps there might be another word I’d prefer to use instead of ‘capitalism.


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