Social venturing can, however, be tricky. Training inner-city workers that other companies consider unemployable consumes a sizable training budget, Kang says. Companies that claim to be socially responsible also often draw critics. Ben & Jerry's and The Body Shop, for instance, have both come under fire for allegedly failing to live up to their missions.
And, of course, it's always tough to make a profit, even when you're not worrying about your social standing. But that's a tough road more companies are likely to have to take. Environics International's latest poll of opinion leaders in industrialized companies show concern about social responsibility running ahead of the gen-eral population. "This is going to grow," Coulter predicts. "It's going to become mainstream, just part of being a good company."
AN ALTERNATE VIEW
American Way asked John R. Boatright, author of Ethics and the Conduct of Business (Prentice Hall), the one key question about social capitalism.
American Way: Can profitable companies really do good?
Boatright: Of course they can. Companies in one sense are there to make a profit for shareholders. But every company turns out goods and serv-ices that people need. Companies are doing good when Exxon produces gasoline, Ford produces cars, or American Express provides financial services. Primarily, that's what we should expect of companies: that they provide goods and services in a responsible way.
But in a well-run economy, business largely sticks to business, and education, healthcare, et cetera, are provided by other agencies. We shouldn't have as part of our standard for social responsibility the requirement that companies not only provide goods and services, but also contribute to the community. Something is basically wrong with our economy if we think that businesses ought to provide affordable housing or take an active role in the educational system. There may be exceptions, but they should be exceptions. -