J500 Media and the Environment

The Most Important Thing by justinlev7
February 13, 2009, 3:37 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Food + Health

A couple years ago, my ethics professor told us a story about a friend of his who’d once been a higher-up in business administration. He recounted a saying of his: “Earning a profit is to a good business as eating food is to a good life. It’s essential, but it can never be the most important thing.” I’d always held a broad mistrust for business in general, and big businesses in particular, because it seemed to me that devoting one’s life to marketing and selling a product was far from being the noblest career out there. Thinking about this quote, though, dispelled a few illusions.

Not a face you want your CEO to make

What is business, really? It is an exchange between two groups of people. The first group has a product that they want to improve, produce and popularize, so people in the second group will purchase it and make it a part of their lifestyle. The product  and the money consumers give in exchange for it are technically essential to keeping the whole system running, just as food is technically essential to keeping the body running. However, they are not the most important things. Most important is the satisfaction that consumers receive from the product and from the interactions they have with the businesspeople. This is why so much of a company’s resources is devoted to customer service and public relations.

If sustainable business is defined as people, planet, and profits, I have trouble imagining any ‘unsustainable’ business having any sort of longterm success. For some businessmen, the  ‘planet’ can represent nothing more than a  source for raw capital to which one adds labor and forges new products, increases profit, and ignores the effects. These would be veritable Mr. Burns-style businessmen, dumping nuclear waste into Springfield Dam and producing three-eyed fish, without regard for the public.

Most businessmen realize, though, that the public will eventually wise up to their irresponsible actions and demand change. Businesses that can’t stay ahead of this curve will no longer be sustainable… and when you can’t sustain, it’s over. Bankrupt. The auto industry is going through that sort of reckoning as we speak, and is faced with widespread negative reaction to its long term irresponsibility. Wise businessmen within the industry will realize that alternative  energy is a viable scheme and can even bear significant profits. I like to think that businessmen are also human beings, who will realize that alternative energy is more then just a money-making scheme. It is a choice, by people, that will benefit the planet we all have to share.

Justin Leverett is having fried three-eyed fish filet for dinner tonight.


4 Comments so far
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Maybe businesses will go through this realization that consumers care about alternative energy and the planet once a new generation takes over the business world. When I envision corporate offices, I do envision Mr. Burns-type CEOs. However, the kind of business leaders that our current times are breeding will have a new type of appreciation for the environment, yeah?

Comment by jessicasb

Unfortunately, many continue a path of unsustainable business methods because it works for them, now. Rather than be too concerned for the future, they simply want to make more money for the time being. This problem is evident in the lack of LEED certified buildings. It costs more for an client to employ green architectural design, despite the eventual benefits over time. They simply want to save money today, rather than wait for the future. The issue now is how to convince them to buy into an alternative path that pays years later, rather than now.

Comment by janiec52

You and Janie both touch on an important point that I just can’t seem to wrap my mind around either: Do businesses care about long-term? It would seem obvious, but in the world of the ever-important stock market, I’m inclined to think otherwise.

Comment by Lauren Keith

I don’t know, it seems to me that most of the young people who are going into business concern themselves pretty deeply with the environment. I have trouble imagining today’s students becoming tomorrow’s earth-blind CEOs, not if they’ve been raised in the same schools I have. Maybe it’s just the people I hang out with, though…

Comment by justinl7

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