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Reinventing companies by serving the common good and thriving as a result

Reinventing companies by serving the common good and thriving as a result

The Altruistic Corporation: Reinventing companies by serving the common good and thriving as a result

Isaac Getz and Laurent Marbacher


Working paper ESCP Business School 
July 2020


Adam Smith posited that by pursuing its economic self-interest, business creates social value. The data backs him up: from 1820 to 2001, per capita income rose twentyfold in the industrialized West (only sixfold in the rest of the world).[ii] This has meant that for the first time in human history, a significant portion of humankind could escape from living at mere subsistence level. Unfortunately—and increasingly—these benefits also come with collateral damage to our societies. There have been attempts to mitigate this damage for as long as modern business has existed,[iii] culminating in today’s approaches ranging from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to the Triple Bottom Line (TBL) and Conscious Capitalism, all trying to generate both economic and social value simultaneously. But as John Elkington, the inventor of TBL, wrote recently: “Whereas CEOs… move heaven and earth to ensure that they hit their profit targets, the same is very rarely true of their people and planet targets. Clearly, the Triple Bottom Line has failed to bury the single bottom line paradigm.”[iv] The latest of these attempts, the Business Roundtable “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation”[v] in which 181 of the top CEOs in the US committed to satisfy all their stakeholders, still does not show how this can be achieved simultaneously.

And what if the solution to social value generation by businesses lay in not pursuing profits at all? What if, as a result—and in a complete reversal of the sequence according to Adam Smith—such businesses outperformed their competitors economically? And what if it was a bank—among all the possible businesses—that was actually to put this into practice?

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How to make your business thrive by doing good

How to make your business thrive by doing good

Chronique publiée le 4 Décembre sur AGENDA, le blog du World Economic Forum

Graphic Altruistic Enterprise

Professor Klaus Schwab, the founder of the World Economic Forum, has called for the abandonment of both “shareholder capitalism and “state capitalism”, which have proven to be incapable of meeting the world’s challenges. He suggests that a “stakeholder capitalism” – a term he coined in the early 1970s – would enable a “Great Reset” of the global economy.

In recent decades, a series of approaches that adhere to the model of stakeholder capitalism have been proposed for companies, such as the Triple Bottom Line (TBL), B Corp, Benefit Corporation, and most recently, the Business RoundTable declaration on the purpose of the corporation or McKinsey’s 5Ps. This is a sign that society’s expectations towards business are rising and that companies are increasingly aware of them. The bad news is that the number of different approaches is confusing. For a leader who sincerely wants to adopt stakeholder capitalism, the transformational path to making it actually work is not clear.

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Altruistic companies during the COVID-19 pandemic

Altruistic companies during the COVID-19 pandemic

A lesson in creating successful companies that care

The COVID-19 pandemic is highlighting how altruistic businesses adapt, remain flexible, and survive.



In mid-March, COVID-19 locked down most of Europe and Asia. For Sterimed, a 900-employee maker of high-end sterile medical packaging, this development brought mixed news. The sudden 40 percent increase in demand for its products was welcome, but ramping up production within its French plants posed a real challenge. One element was particularly thorny: Procuring protective masks for workers was impossible in France.

Because it refused to endanger its employees, Sterimed needed masks. Having sold its products to China for years, it quickly realized that one of its Chinese clients was indeed producing protective masks and could send several boxes of free samples, which didn’t infringe on China’s ban on the commercial export of masks. Sterimed ended up with more masks than it needed, and CEO Thibaut Hyvernat immediately thought he could pass them on. “I started calling my friends who run businesses and began sharing some of the spare masks,” he told us. Then, something struck him: “Instead of helping several dozen friends, I could help 20 million friends!”

You can read the full article on strategy-business.com.

Coronavirus: Businesses must seize the chance to be altruistic

Coronavirus: Businesses must seize the chance to be altruistic

Here is an Op-Ed we have published in the British daily CITY A.M. on how some–altrusitically-minded– companies act during the COVID-19 crisis.


Coronavirus: Businesses must seize the chance to be altruistic

Isaac Getz and Laurent Marbacher

We recently interviewed the Manufacturing Director of a large company who told us that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic he had gathered all his suppliers and told them frankly: “We’ll face this together. We share everything.”

This leader could easily have placed the entire burden of plummeting demand on the shoulders of suppliers by drastically lowering orders. Many companies are doing this globally. Instead he chose to share the load, by lowering external orders and his own production equally – something those suppliers will not forget.

At this time of unprecedented turbulence, the instinct for businesses may be to preserve their own interests, cutting off suppliers and cancelling purchasing contracts – however this won’t help them once the crisis is over.

Companies such as the above do far better during times of trouble, since some of their partners may already help them. More importantly, when the storm is over, they are surrounded by real partners – who remember their acts and are ready to help them – instead of being alone and on their knees.


Read the full article here

Altruism can be good for business, as these companies show

Altruism can be good for business, as these companies show

Le 17 octobre, nous avons publié un article sur le site du World Economic Forum autour des idées de « L’entreprise altruiste ».

On Oct. 17, we have published an article on the World Economic Forum site on « The altruistic corporation » topic.

Despite all the benefits that capitalism has brought to society, we have reached the moment when its downsides – social and environmental – have begun to outweigh its positive effects.

Attempts to eliminate the negative social effects of business started as far back as the 1800s. Nevertheless, the dominant corporate attitude has always been the pursuit of financial value, either unconstrained – leaving social concerns to philanthropy – or, more recently, constrained by the simultaneous pursuit of the social value, through such approaches as corporate social responsibility (CSR), bottom-of-the-pyramid ventures or even movements like B-corporations or ‘conscious capitalism’.

These approaches do create certain social value, but this creation is constrained by the pursuit of profit. In sum, creating social value is considered OK as long as it does not harm your bottom line.

So why has a large Japanese pharmaceutical company, Eisai, delivered 2.2 billion tablets of its drug against elephantiasis, a painful and profoundly disfiguring disease threatening 886 million people in 52 countries, to the World Health Organization for free? Why has LSDH, a leading French milk and juice packer, created a little lodge next to its main entrance to provide shelter and showers to outside drivers while they are waiting for long hours for their trucks to be loaded? Why does the FruitGuys, an American fruit-delivery company, agree to buy all of its supplier’s pears, even when they do not reach quality standards, because of an accident in his orchard?

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