First, Make Money. Also, Do Good.
New York Times, Business Section - August 14, 2011
CORPORATE social responsibility efforts have always struck me as the modern equivalent of John D.
Rockefeller handing out dimes to the common folk. They may be well-intentioned, but they often seem
like small gestures at the margins of what companies are really trying to do: make money.
As well they should, an argument most famously made by the Nobel laureate Milton Friedman decades
ago. He called social responsibility programs “hypocritical window-dressing”
in an article
he wrote for
The New York Times Magazine in 1970, titled “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its
But Michael E. Porter, a Harvard Business School professor, may have an answer to the Friedman
principle. Mr. Porter is best-known for his original ideas about corporate strategy and the economic
competition among nations and regions. Recently, however, he has been promoting a concept he calls
Earlier this year, Mr. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, a consultant and a senior fellow in the corporate social
responsibility program at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, laid out their case in a lengthy
in the Harvard Business Review
, “Creating Shared Value: How to Reinvent Capitalism — and
Unleash a Wave of Innovation and Growth.” Since then, Mr. Porter and Mr. Kramer have been
championing the shared-value thesis in conferences, meetings with corporate leaders, and even a
conversation with White House advisers.
Shared value is an elaboration of the notion of corporate self-interest — greed, if you will. The idea that
companies can do well by doing good is certainly not new. It is an appealing proposition that over the
years has been called “triple bottom line” (people, planet, profit), “impact investing” and “sustainability”
— all describing corporate initiatives that address social concerns including environmental pollution,