Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The social responsibilities of business

While capitalism encourages greed and pushes business owners and others to seek profit above everything else, including people, not everyone puts mammon above responsibility to their fellow man and care of the earth’s resources.

There are a variety of business organizations that promote the common good and civic responsibility. One such organization in Maine, Maine Businesses for Social Responsibility, has been at that mission for over a decade, for almost 15 years, in fact. [sorry about no link to MEBSR--they're site is currently on the fritz.]

Edward Murphy, the Portland Newspaper's longtime business writer contributed this article to the Business Sunday section of Maine Sunday Telegram. Murphy’s informative feature shows an organization changing, trying to stay in tune to their original mission, while also adapting to the needs of businesses in today’s 21st century climate. To quote Borealis Bread’s Jim Amaral from the article, MEBSR is looking to introduce practical ways for businesses to make a difference.

"I felt they've always had a strong element of practical ways to be socially responsible and do it in a cost-effective way," Amaral said. "They're trying to do a better job of showing people how some of these programs could help."

While I was pleased to read that MEBSR is still going strong and trying to promote sustainable models of doing business, I had one minor bone to pick with a quote from Sanna McKim, MEBSR’s executive director.

In the article, McKim states that she believes most companies recognize that environmental consciousness—treading lightly on the environment, as well as providing solid employee benefits a good thing. She indicates that this is what consumers expect and often, reward.

I would disagree. If that were the case, the Wal-Marts and other big-box stores wouldn’t be springing up everywhere, steamrolling more community-minded businesses and kicking them to the curb.

I commend Ms. McKim and her organization, but I don’t think we’ve turned the corner yet, IMHO. Just take a drive up Turner Street in Auburn, Civic Center Drive in Augusta, or the Maine Mall area of South Portland, to name a few locales where big-box development, not sustainable practices dominate the landscape.

Here is related take on MEBSR, from Flyte's Rich Brooks.

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