Monday, 25 May 2020

Bettering The World

Updated: June 15, 2013 3:03 pm

The last decade witnessed a growth in philanthropic businesses and big businesses investing in the society. The worldwide depression on by the Wall Street, stricter laws about environment and the rise of laws about corporate social responsibility have contributed to this. There is also a rising awareness among businesses large and small that screwing over people and the environment is bad business in the long run. Against this backdrop, it can be aptly said that the reforms required now are fundamentally different from the economic reforms of the early 1990s.

Now investments in manufacturing are constrained by difficulties in getting environmental clearances, people’s permission to use land and to some extent, by labour regulations. Public opinion surveys worldwide reveal declining trust in business corporations—capitalism’s primary institution. As capitalism struggles with questions of social responsibility, corporations increasingly realise that they do not and cannot exist in isolation pursuing self-interest. Hence, business leaders are increasingly reflecting on the changing role of business in society and the values that drive business. In this background, this book captures the myriad challenges of our tumultuous time, and lays the foundation for a form of capitalism, which is gentler, more inclusive and more society conscious. In fact, the book tells us that the capitalist growth model must have a human face to be meaningful.

The book, which comprises 209 pages, is divided into four parts. The first part describes some recent issues that have embroiled respected corporations in controversies. The second part describes typical ways in which corporations relate to society. The third part discusses changes required in the nature of conversations between business and civil society to facilitate a more systemically integrated role for corporations. The fourth part consists of some reflections on ideas guiding the prevalent paradigm of human socio-economic development, which are shaping the institutions of economic progress, including business corporations. At the end are some useful appendices.

The writer takes the plunge into topics as diverse as human development, corporate social responsibility and economic progress. Since this book is about business corporations’ responsibilities to society, it is appropriate that the last appendix, and thus the last word in this book, is by Mahatma Gandhi. He was a great proponent of the concept of trusteeship as the relationship with society in which business leaders must view their generation of wealth. It is a concept that is gathering support, supplanting the view that the business of business must be only business.

A thought-provoking collection of articles, this book is a radical argument for changing the role of business corporations in society. The author’s insightful essays and well-written case studies present a well-constructed argument for re-evaluating the purpose of business. His unique perspective is invaluable as capitalism and its impact on human development is being questioned across the world. It is a book relevant not only to leaders, managers, and students but also to everyone concerned with the need for transforming dominant paradigms of reckless capitalism to make growth more inclusive.

 By Ashok Kumar

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