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The purpose of business: Advancing the common good

by Rev. Oliver Williams, C.S.C.
Publication: Business World Online

February 6, 2013


WHAT IS the purpose of business? Asked this question, any random group will probably have the majority saying: "To make money, of course." It may come as a surprise to some that a growing number of business leaders assume a much wider purpose of business. One of those leaders, John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, puts it this way: "The purpose of business is to create sustainable value for all stakeholders." (See his recent coauthored book, Conscious Capitalism). Other business leaders who share this perspective include Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Bill Kelleher of Southwest Airlines, Bill George of Medtronic, Ratan N. Tata of Tata Sons, and Biz Stone of Twitter. Increasingly, business leaders are focusing on the dignity of all their stakeholders, and firms are taking on projects in the wider society to alleviate poverty. They do this not because business caused these problems, but rather because as thinking and feeling human beings, they realize that their organizations might have the managerial talent and resources to act where governments are unable or unwilling to do so. These leaders have a sense of being called upon to seek the common good, to make a difference, to make the world a better place for their having been there.

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