At some point in any organization there begins a discussion on “who we are” and “what we stand for” which can be both perplexing and distracting and can result in weeks of discussion. One well-known economic theory teaches that the purpose of business is maximizing profit for the shareholders. This concept was developed by economist Milton Friedman, from the Chicago School of Economics, and was published in the New York Times in 1970. The 1976 winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics became popular perhaps because his ideas had a strong appeal to the people given the difficulties of the moment. Competition was starting to become global, and it was becoming more challenging to find ways to increase profit. The idea of focusing totally on making money, and forgetting about any concerns for employees, customers or society seemed worth exploring.
Long ago Peter Drucker, the father of business consulting, made a very profound observation that has not been lost on business executives:
"The purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two--and only two--basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."
Today, when top management is surveyed, their priorities in order are: finance, sales, production, management, legal and people. Missing from the list: marketing and innovation. When one considers the trouble that many of our icons have run into in recent years, it is not easy to surmise that Drucker's advice would have perhaps helped management to avoid the problems they face today.
But much has happened over the past couple of decades that has made visible the cost of this model. Focusing on the bottom line as the ultimate priority has had an impact on raising unemployment, social crises, environmental challenges, health impacts, to name a few.
The Corporate Social Responsibility movement (CSR) owes its momentum, at least partially, to society’s response to some of these undesirable consequences. In the mid-1990s, John Elkington proposed a new accounting framework for measuring results—the ‘triple bottom line’. Going beyond the traditional focus on profits, shareholder value and return on investment, this model included environmental and social aspects. It became also known as “People, Planet, Profit”. This revolutionary concept has still to be accepted by many business people, but not by those people strolling down the aisles of the supermarket. When you select a product, do you prefer a company that maximizes profit or one that cares for the waste it generates, for the water it uses, for the CO2 emissions, for the GMOs or untested chemicals it uses — and which you will put into your body? You may be just looking at the price - how much does the product cost, and which one costs less. But what if you were provided, at the shelf, a fuller understanding of the history and provenance of this product? What if you were informed about how the producer treats its employees; if they are paid fair wages or are being exploited; if the manufacturer employs people from your country, contributing jobs to your local neighborhood, or from some distant—cheaper— labor market.
Is it that our values shift, depending on whether we are at our desk trying to maximize profit, or if we are out shopping, being a consumer? Actually it may be not so much a shift, but a disconnect, arising from the fact that we don’t generally pause to think of the composition or origin of a product, who worked to get it there, what conditions the employees endured, if land, rain forest, water or animals were abused in the process. That information is not obvious at the point of sale.
And finally when Christian purpose is unknown abuse is inevitable. An understanding of the purpose of the Christian business will help in our approach to handling and running our businesses. The business entity is neither Christian nor non-Christian. A Christian business is one run by Christians, who demonstrate Biblical values and principles as taught in the word of God, in the day to day running of the business.
Rick Warren, the author of the Purpose Driven Life states that “Experience is not what happens to you. It is what you do with what happens to you. Don’t waste your pain; use it to help others.”
“Many people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will come out of your deepest hurts.” Worshiping God with your actions can be done in the business world.
Clearly management teams operating businesses today have many challenges. A business cannot ignore return on investment but only focusing on the bottom line is just not possible. “Who we are” and “what we stand for” is so much more at CBC. For us the world of business is very complex and always changing and yet we must take a position. This purpose and the guiding principles we stand for shapes us as a company and challenges us to be better human beings. So after much discussion and after more than 163 years in business we submit the following purpose and guiding principles:
Serve Our Shareholders
Strive for Profit
Honor Our Customers
Respect Our Associates
Cherish Our Planet
Treat All Mankind with Dignity