All? Maybe not entirely. But it is certainly the root of the evils which have impacted us most.
And that’s why your company should avoid this as a primary objective.
But here’s what I’m not saying.
I’m not saying that profit is evil. In fact, within a business context, profit is essential. If you’re aiming to do good with your company, a lack of profit will make it nigh on impossible to do so.
But maximising profit? Without constraint? I challenge you to come up with a root cause that has created more damage in the world.
- Smoking is the biggest cause of preventable death in the UK. It kills approx 8 million people in the world every year. Current academic estimates are that nearly half a billion people will be killed by smoking the first half of this century. Why is it still being pushed? Because it creates huge profit.
- Lead in petrol has been the cause of millions of deaths worldwide, as well as significant health issues in children. The cost of taking petrol unleaded was so large that the Oil and Gas industry fed misinformation, lobbying and PR campaigns to resist it, delaying legislation by years and costing millions of lost lives. But helping profit.
- We’re watching in the UK how reduced investment in infrastructure in water companies, driven primarily to maximise short term profits (and share buybacks) has led to pollution on an industrial scale.
- Oil and gas gets a special mention, which I don’t need to expand on, in terms of its climate impact, and the many decades of misinformation, lobbying and PR campaigns (is there a trend here?) to deny and downplay its impact, and more recently to undermine plausibility of alternatives. Possibly the biggest crime of all in terms of impact. But it does wonders for shareholders.
Let’s not go into food processing and sugars. Plastics (O&G again?). A long long list going back centuries (East India Company anyone?)
What does this have to do with us as business owners?
Quite a lot, actually.
Because if you own and run your own business, it really is your choice what you do. You can try to increase profitability at all costs, and model yourself on businesses where this the main driver.
Or you can accept that you need a level of profit to sustain your business, but build it around longer-term and more sustainable drivers.
Both models can work. Running for maximal profit has worked for the oil majors, for tobacco companies, for arms manufacturers, and so on.
But at what cost?
And alternative ways to run companies profitably based around positive values and purpose are plentiful.
Your choice. My choice.[This cartoon from the New Yorker remains ridiculously on point]
How we can support you
- Join us on a workshop on how to scale your company; create time to focus on the bigger picture; and keep values and purpose core to your company. For max 5 CEOs of companies with revenues between £1.5m and £15m.
- Subscribe to our weekly Build on Purpose newsletter. Every Saturday morning, we'll send you a short focussed read on a specific topic of how to lead a company that values both profit and purpose.
- Talk to us to explore how we can help you scale your company in the direction you want to take it.