Friday, 3 October 2014

Is the Business of Business, Business?

We’ve recently spent a great deal of time in various units discussing the ethical responsibilities of organisations, and in particular, looking at whether the business of business is just business, and nothing beyond this.

The arguments supporting this notion suggest that businesses already drive the economic welfare of a nation, and in doing so support employment, infrastructure, and both supply and attract investment. Whether they have any responsibilities beyond this has commonly been suggested to be something that is optional, and up to the discretion of each individual organisation.

Although I don’t want to delve into the crux of this debate, I wanted to present a campaign that I recently came across in the CBD that showcases the great opportunity that organisations have to collaborate with community and social-good campaigns in a manner that can work quite seamlessly for all brands involved.

White Ribbon’s New Banner Ads (Source: Erika Fraser Twitter @EMcFraser)

The above image is part of the new White Ribbon campaign, which is Australia’s only national, male led campaign focused on ending men’s violence against women. The banner for this campaign has been placed on the City of Sydney’s garbage collection trucks, and therefore plays up the pun on the banner that violence against women is ‘rubbish’. Although in this case it can be expected that as a completely community focused organisation, the City of Sydney has a clear responsibility to support social betterment initiatives, it’s not to say that there isn’t scope for other businesses (who are mainly in the business of doing business) to do the same.

Ian Davis, in a Mckinsey Quarterly article on this topic, suggested that the best approach for businesses that are actively looking to extend their corporate social responsibility functions is to develop clear strategies that are implemented at an executive level, and clearly communicated down the rest of the organisation. This means identifying social issues that are contextually relevant to the organisation itself, and determining how these issues relate to the overall purpose of the organisation.

Although these issues/strategies will differ across different industries and organisations, the act of clearly establishing, and then communicating an organisation’s social, in addition to economic, purpose has been suggested as the starting point for organisations looking to go beyond just being in the business of business.

To read more about Ian Davis’s thoughts on this topic, see his article, The biggest contract, in the Economist. 

Salil Kumar
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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