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“Social Response Capitalism” Bruce Piasecki’s Surprising Solution

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday December 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

surprisingsolution_cover

Reading through Bruce Piasecki’s The Surprising Solution–an updated version of his book World Inc–gives you a glimpse into the future. The future Piasecki paints is one where a new form of capitalism has replaced that which grew out of the Industrial Revolution. He calls the new form of capitalism, “social response capitalism” (SRC).  As he writes in his book, “…social history has reached a point that tips us up toward a better world.” The need for better products and corporate transparency are driving us toward SRC.

The transition from the old form of capitalism to SRC will be accomplished through what Piasecki terms the S Frontier. He defines it as the need for companies to “develop and continue to refine the business art of innovation for social needs. The drivers in the S Frontier are:

  1. The swiftness of new global market information
  2. The severity of some of the leading social problems before us
  3. The need for Social Response Capitalists

What will the world be like when SRC has replaced the old form of capitalism? The answer to that question lies in reading Piasecki’s lists of the SRC tenets:

1. Companies restructure their operations to actively accommodate consumer demand by creating new products that bridge the gap between traditional expectations of performance and price and social impact on the larger world.

2. This gap has been ignored in the past because it wasn’t considered good business to worry about such externalities.

3. However, today, these externalities are impinging upon the long term viability of entire product lines that have served as the basis for the industrial economy.

4. While past efforts at becoming a good corporate citizen often focused on streamlining production techniques and efficiency, the latest twist is making better products that respond to legitimate, emerging social pressures and needs.

5. Examples of these new social pressures include a drive to eliminate toxic chemicals in products of everyday use, a new corporate emphasis on the reusability and endurance of products, and some early examples of pure product innovation in advance response to pressure on clean air and climate change.

Social response capitalists do three things:

  1. Demonstrate a remarkable tolerance for discomforting information, and then thrive on constant learning
  2. Achieve power through applied common sense
  3. Recognize that their new business models and social goals need wide circulation

Social Response Product Development

Social Response Product Development (SRPD) bridges the gap between the needs of society and competition within global markets. It is a “strategic way to encourage restraint while working toward a better near future.” Piasecki calls it the “central concept of the book.

The drivers of SRPD are:

  • Concerns over climate change
  • Terrorism
  • Energy diversity and security
  • Environmental protection
  • Investment in new capital markets

The benefits of SRPD include:

  • Margin improvements
  • Rapid cycle time
  • Market access
  • Product differentiation
  • Social bundling of values in products

The partnership between business and government

Part of SRC is a partnership between business and government. Piasecki defines it as the “intelligent union of both government and corporate leadership that will better the world.” Social and environmental reform, hence creating SRC, will be impossible if there is not cooperation between business and government. Governments and business both play a vital role in reforming capitalism.

It is clear that if we believe that better products can make a better world, we must continue to believe in both the power of the corporation and the legitimate responsibility of government to move society collectively forward.

We must call on governments to play a stronger role in seeking solutions to our pressing energy and resource needs, as well as supporting and encouraging the new corporate force at play, social response capitalism.


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  1. December 17, 2009 at 12:22 pm PDT | Brian Rants writes:

    Social Response Capitalism -compelling summary of book. You are forgetting a “third sector” however. Where business has lacked conscience, and governments willpower, the humanitarian or non-profit sector has stepped in. Any partnership that ignores this third sector sidelines a great asset!

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