It’s been just nine lightning fast quarters since I began writing Corporate Empathy and openly discussing whether corporations acting with empathy could profitably find solutions to big social challenges. In that time I’ve found solid examples of just that. Initiatives like Conscious Capitalism, Benefit Corporations, and Sr Richard Brandson’s, The B Team consist of businesses that are advocates for making profits while also improving the world.
Like all successful business ventures, these movements have been started by entrepreneurs – not economists. Left brained academics and bureaucrats continue to value the study of finance, business, and economics over the humanities, anthropology and other explorations of human behavior. Both are important, however it is in exactly those understudied fields – where empathy lies – that entrepreneurs and brands are finding their motivation and quickly re-shaping our world economy.
A Sustainable Brands article posted by Company Man Studios after hosting my talk for Ad 2 Tampa Bay on Tuesday names this movement the “The CVS Effect” and in it, Claire Sommer details how Apple, Disney and Chipotle have been making “decisions that buck the bottom-line mantra” following the CVS announcement that they would be removing tobacco products from their shelves. In Apple’s most recent shareholder meeting CEO Tim Cook answered a challenge to the company’s sustainability efforts by advising shareholders that “if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.” As a fan of Chipotle’s continued aggressive advertising Sommer’s article brought my attention to their most recent SEC filing, where the company listed climate change as a risk to investors which “may have blown a transparency hole in climate-change risk disclosure for shareholders of other companies to climb on through” says Sommer.
A growing group of proactive corporate citizens are throwing off the shackles of post World War II economic theory. Small local businesses and big corporate brands alike are putting people and planet on an equal level with profits at an exponentially increasing pace. The academic institutions, government agencies, and companies that fail to recognize this return to human values in business will be revealed for the dinosaurs they are as they face certain extinction from failing to evolve.