“For a profit maximising company, the bottom line is how much money you make. But when you run a social business, it’s about impact.”
For a publicly listed company there is a legal obligation on the Board of Directors to act in a way that will maximise the return on investment to shareholders i.e. profit.
For any shareholders who seek a long term return on their investment – rather than quarterly profit taking – then ‘impact’ (net ‘good done’ in the community as the result of the company’s actions) will be more or less synonymous with profit. In a perfect world, companies that do bad things in the name of profit will only derive those profits in the short term.
Every company I have ever worked in (I have not worked in any PLCs but have worked in profit and non-profit distributing businesses) there has been a real concern both for social impact and for making a sound return on investment.
The sense of dynamic balance has been vital. It is not profit making OR social impact but profit taking AND social impact that leads to sustained progress.
We can shun the tyranny of “OR” and embrace the genius of “AND” – there is a yin/yang dynamic; a Zen type ambiguity that can be used creatively.
In my experience it was the companies that traded profitably and used those profits transparently and accountably to ensure the sustainable development of the company and is employees that were able to do their best work in the long term. In the ‘non profits’ too often the development of the business was entirely hi-jacked by the whims of funders and policy makers.
It is possible to find profitable ways to make the world a better place.