It is a beautiful and often overlooked truth that most corporations – like arts
organizations – are the result of someone’s imagination and desire to serve people.
An individual or a few people dedicate their efforts to inventing something that can
make people’s lives easier or create opportunities.
A man concocts a syrup recipe that can alleviate headaches and stomach pains. This becomes Coca-Cola. The enterprising Wright brothers dream of a flying machine that can take people anywhere. Their innovation leads to the creation of the airline industry. An immigrant from Italy uses his own money to provide loans to Italians in San Francisco who are discriminated against by other banks. This becomes the Bank of America.
Whether imagination leads to legally forming a corporation or a nonprofit (a term I
passionately dislike but that’s another article), all organizations must seek the
highest profit, which in my view, is to be of service or benefit to people. Ultimately
the users of the company’s service decide if the organization is successful in this
regard and will prosper. As corporations get bigger, they often lose sight of this
early commitment to serving people or of the necessity of listening to their
customers. Or a company may simply grapple with the best way to authentically
connect to its now larger community.
The demand is intense today to respond to us and to think differently. A socially
responsible corporation sets itself apart from competitors by building mutually
beneficial relationships with customers and by aspiring to be transformational not
merely transactional. It welcomes and pursues conversation and responsibility,
understanding that its lasting success is connected to understanding and listening to
the communities it serves and impacts.