Jeff Escalante
Aug 27, 2018 · 3 min read

So overall, you have a decent point here — when a business is perceived as one that does good things, it drives more business. This can be seen not only in the examples you gave here, but with abundant clarity in the many companies that have recently adopted the “one for you, one for Africa” business model that was pioneered by Tom’s, if I’m not mistaken. The theory here is that you can charge double the price for your product, send one to charity, and make people more likely to buy because (1) it’s cheap enough to make the product at base that the price doubling isn’t significant, and 2) people feel less guilt about buying because they are effectively automatically donating to charity.

So I think my problem with this piece is that it I feel that you should be doing good because you have the ability, and that you care about people that need help, not solely to increase profit. The increased profit should be a side effect of the do-gooding — done this way it is truly genuine, and done the opposite way, its morally equivalent to saving someone’s life just because someone paid you to — otherwise you would have let them die for sure.

This is exactly the point that the article about Walmart that you argued against was trying to make. This article said that Walmart is engaging in a thinly veiled attempt to “do good” for the sole purpose of increasing profit, without really caring at all about doing good. It calls the company out for falsely posturing itself as a leader in environmentalist tactics, and falsely inflating numbers in order to make their impact and efforts seem larger than it is, for the sake of increasing business as a result of people thinking the business is one that does good.

I think the most important point in the article you argue against is here:

ISLR said: “Walmart is interested in shifting away from fossil fuels only if it can do so at little or no cost and without any impact on its profits.

“It’s not that Walmart can’t afford to do more; it just doesn’t want to. Walmart generated $16 billion in profit last year. The Walton family, which owns half of Walmart stock, is worth $145 billion”.

You said it yourself and nobody could argue against it — doing some good is unquestionably better than the opposite. But at the same time, it just doesn’t seem right to be giving someone credit for being a philanthropist when they are inflating their own philanthropy statistics in order to make themselves look better for the sole purpose of filling their own pockets with more money, which, by the way, they are already absolutely swimming in, and could easily use a small portion of to make a huge different for people that desperately need it with no negative consequences for themselves, but are not doing.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that overall, you’re not wrong. When a business does good, this should be celebrated. However, it should be celebrated when done responsibly — not when executed as a poorly disguised, exaggerated attempt to drum up positive PR and increase sales. But that being said, unless the company is registered as anything other than a standard LLC whose sole goal is increasing profit for shareholders, it’s hard for a company to pull that off. Fortunately, there are ways for companies to incorporate things other than pure greed into their manifestos — registering as public benefit corporations or B corporations can help to legitimize.

I think the right response is a little dash of both. You want to encourage companies to do good, but you also want to ensure that they are reporting their do-gooding responsibly and accurately, and ensure that they are being pushed to do more good — especially companies that make such insane amounts of money that they easily could have done way more than they were, while patting themselves on the back and naming themselves leaders in doing good. And finally to toss in my own opinion, I think there needs to be way more pressure on companies to change their business model from solely generating profit for shareholders to also caring about the people they serve and the world they live in, without which they would be nowhere.

    Jeff Escalante

    Written by

    lifelong learner