Businesses, even those outside the realm of greedy corporate drones, are designed to earn a profit. Other priorities, like environmental sustainability or job creation, are reached only through happy accidents or marketing ploys to help companies make more money. Surely, if you’re raking in the dough, you can’t be making a difference—at least not on purpose.
This outdated vision of commerce has multiple origins, but if asked, most students of social enterprise will point an accusing finger at Milton Friedman’s 1970 New York Times Magazine essay “The Social Responsibility of Business is to Increase Its Profits.” Friedman’s point (though slightly more nuanced than the title or its interpretation might suggest) was that corporate executives have a responsibility to maximize profit. Frittering away money on other objectives—say, fighting poverty—would cheat stockholders, employees, and customers out of cash that is rightfully theirs.
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