Choosing Between Profit and Purpose

Devangshu Dutta

April 22, 2009

The Austin American-Statesman asks: Is a purpose-driven company more likely to profit? The idea is that, no matter what product or service you are selling, successful companies often have a deeper purpose beyond making a profit.

It’s a moot point or loaded question or just a load of [fuzzy-thinking], depending on your point of view. We’re likely to get sucked into a debate about whether businesses should just focus on business (i.e. making money) or should they be governed by a “higher” purpose than that.

Someone wise once wrote: we need to break away from the tyranny of “or.” Having a purpose beyond making money, and making money are not two diametrically opposite directions for a business.

Focusing only on profits gives us scenarios such as we’ve had with the banks in the last year. There is no end to greed, and a business that is solely focused on increasing its own revenues and profits essentially becomes a dysfunctional member of civil society.

On the other hand, a business that is not focusing on making profits and only follows some other “higher calling” is on the expressway to the business graveyard, taking the higher purpose along with it.

I think the principle of enlightened self-interest works for businesses as well as it does for individuals.

This is the Austin American-Statesman article on the subject: Is a purpose-driven company more likely to profit?