Good deeds are good business: the advantages of corporate social responsibility
In 2017, Google made a $1 billion dollar promise: it would give a billion dollars in grants alongside a million employee hours to ventures “that use technology and innovation to tackle complex global challenges”. Since then, the search engine has committed millions of dollars to everything from supporting small businesses in Kenya, to fighting Covid-19 misinformation, to “finding innovative ways to challenge bias and prejudice”.
It is clear that Google wants to make an impact, but why? After all, this is hardly cutthroat, shareholder-first capitalism. Couldn’t all that money go towards dividends or share buybacks? Couldn’t all those employee hours contribute to new, profitable enterprises within Google? Why has Google spent so much on social entrepreneurship within its organization?
The answer is that Google’s $1 billion dollar plan is an alignment of corporate interest with social good. Google helps people in need, so employees want to work there, and consumers feel good about buying Google products. Everybody wins. This is what social entrepreneurs recognize: profit and social responsibility are intertwined. Social entrepreneurs work within large companies, small start-ups, or non-profits - what unites them all is the idea that to solve society’s greatest problems it takes targeted innovation.
Social entrepreneurs could work on advances in renewable energy, use technology to serve underrepresented communities, or develop environmentally sustainable products. Such innovation is a hallmark of the private sector: companies and charities are quicker to react to changing cirucmstances than governments are in many cases. These ventures are often extremely profitable (or at least beloved by the stock market): in January 2021, electric vehicle company Tesla made co-founder Elon Musk the wealthiest individual in the world. According to Musk, Tesla’s goal is to “help expedite the move… towards a solar electric economy, which I believe to be … [a] sustainable solution.”
If Google and Tesla have figured out that good deeds are good business, how long before the rest of us follow suit?
Archie McKenzie 02/02/21