Not Business As Usual

Thomas Perkins, the famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, has been the subject of significant press attention recently. In an open letter to the Wall Street Journal, he drew a comparison between Nazi Germany and criticisms of the now infamous “one per cent” of über-wealthy Americans who control inordinate wealth and socio-economic power.

While his firm distanced itself quickly from Perkins’s comments, he took a few days to do so, apologising for his specific comparison to Kristallnacht”, but reconfirming that he still stands by the message of his letter: “Any time the majority starts to demonize the minority,”no matter what it is, it’s wrong and dangerous and no good comes from it.”

Perkins is rightly being viewed as absurdly out of touch with the reality of his wealth and the privilege it affords him. That privilege is precisely the problem the Occupy movement aimed to redress by focusing its efforts on the tyrannical behaviour of ‘the one percent’. Nonetheless, Perkins’s timing was serendipitous, coming as it did the same week as the premiere screening of a new documentary film, “Not Business As Usual.

In stark contrast to Perkins and the likes of legendary economist Milton Friedman, “Not Business As Usual” and its protagonists are using their enterprises to move beyond the “business quo,” to reinvent capitalism. They envision generative business models, grounded in moral behaviour, that are both profitable and responsibly serve and sustain their communities and environment.

Whereas Friedman argued vehemently that “the sole purpose of a company is to maximize shareholder value,” these new “pirates on the high seas of capitalism” eschew—or rage against!—20th century ideas about the role of business, and advocate instead for generosity in leadership, stakeholder values in planning, and responsible stewardship of scarce resources.

Their examples are inspiring and admirable: Fairware is disrupting the promotional products business by teaching procurement officers about responsible purchasing, and the power of international supply chains. Lunapads is bringing attention to women’s advancement around the world, while selling reusable feminine hygiene products. And the film’s producer, Institute B, is using “audacious” and inclusive organisational culture as the foundation of a new venture accelerator for entrepreneurs like those the film celebrates.

“Not Business As Usual” contemplates a new era in business—one that realises business as usual has pushed the limits of our planet’s capacity, while concentrating financial wealth in the hands of a too-small minority. The film celebrates ventures and entrepreneurs that refuse to sacrifice social good on the altar of shareholder returns. For them, healthy enterprises embody a significant shift in the underpinnings of business that is “bringing humanity back.”

“Gone are the days of organisations taking and not giving,” said one of the featured entrepreneurs. Whereas capitalists of the industrial era waited until after they’d amassed their fortunes to “give back,” entrepreneurs in the era of responsibility recognise that shared value today generates far greater social returns.

And they’re proving that moral behaviour is more profitable.

No, it’s “Not Business As Usual.” It’s a wake up call to business leaders still locked in the endless cycle of quarterly reports, and willfully blind to the needs of their communities.

Watch and learn. This is the future of enterprise.

This article was originally published on The Huffington Post Canada —

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