Milton Freidman vs. Whole Foods on Reason.com

the social responsibility of businessIf you’ve ever grappled with the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility, you’ve undoubtedly encountered a certain degree of cynicism along with naivete. You may also recall Milton Friedman’s famous quote “the Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” which is precisely the way many business people think about it. But check out this fantastic exchange between Friedman and Whole Foods Founder John Mackey at ReasonOnline.
Mackey’s take on Friedman’s vision is that it’s simply too narrow and basically old fashioned. Friedman says Mackey is just adding fluff to what is basically the same philosophy he has. I think it’s mostly a language barrier, and a matter a of exactly how you define “profit”. Must the word “profit” always refer to money in the strictest sense? It’s certainly a lot easier to quantify that something like “happiness”, but the intangible benefits of good, honest business clearly go way beyond pure finance. The question is, must we obsessively try to quantify it somehow, or is there language that can describe it accurately enough in non-abstract terms to arrive at some sort of agreement?
Check out the exchange, it’s very thought provoking.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He was instrumental in the creation of TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years as well as an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.