Happy Business - Profit With Purpose
07 Nov 2019 | Benedict Clark
When did business become so myopic, worshipping at the
altar of short-term growth and concerned only with maximising
In many ways this short-termism encapsulates so much of what is
unhelpful about the modern world. We have created an expectation of
immediate gratification, pleasure-seeking our way through life. It
is simply not a sustainable approach. Not to life, nor indeed to
Boardrooms worldwide are thrown into a tizzy at the first sign
of slowing growth. But can growth really carry on indefinitely? And
what, frankly, is the point? The answer to this question often
seems nothing more sophisticated than lining the pockets of a small
band of already wealthy shareholders.
When you stop and think about it, there are many different
stakeholders involved in any one business, particularly when we
consider multi-national corporate behemoths. A vast interconnected
web spreads out, touching countless lives, innumerable communities
and a multitude of natural environments. A business is much, much
more than simply its shareholders. It's much more than even its
With this privileged position comes great responsibility. The
needs and wellbeing of all of those affected should not only be
safeguarded, but actively nurtured. We're often told it's a dog eat
dog world out there, but it doesn't need to be. After all, if a
business wishes to survive in the long-run it will need to sustain
the people and planet alongside it. To tackle the most pressing
problems of our times, surely, we need business to play a core role
in driving change.
Considering business as merely a vehicle for creating profit
leads to problems. Think about it. Making money is in itself
amoral. It has no allegiance or values to uphold, other than the
single-minded pursuit of profit. Unfortunately, the easiest way to
do this is to cut corners and exploit, so all too often this profit
comes at the expense of people and the environment, benefitting
only a tiny few. Businesses should not be allowed to shirk their
responsibility in this regard. After all, the economy is there to
serve the people, not the other way around.
Only through adding a human touch can money-making be infused
with any real meaning. The underlying intention is vital. Profit
should come naturally from approaching something you believe in
with love. It shouldn't be the focus. In fact, the idea of making
money purely for the sake of making money seems utterly ludicrous
when properly scrutinised. It's what you do with money that
matters, not the money itself.
Many businesses have simply lost sight of their values. How many
tycoons have lain on their deathbed, espousing their regret at not
having made more money in their time? None. The reality is
happiness and connection are what people value. Why not then use
business as a way of spreading this through the world? We don't
need more businesses making huge profits for their own sake, we
already have plenty of those. What we need is profit with a
To help us on this journey, perhaps we should redefine the very
essence of what is considered success, all too often framed purely
in monetary terms. It is precisely this kind of thinking that gives
rise to the triple bottom line of people, planet and
profit. Success based on creating a positive impact on the world.
Organisations such as B-Lab help enshrine these values, highlighting
businesses as shining examples of this approach.
Whatever the coming years hold for humanity, it's clear that
businesses are going to play an integral role. Couldn't the aim of
business be to help foster our wellbeing and bring us together?
Couldn't businesses be a force for good? It's time for businesses
to stand up and be counted, helping create the sustainable future
we so desperately need.
Benedict Clark is a writer, occupational
psychologist, coach and Action for Happiness supporter with a
special interest in wellbeing at work.