Miss Management: When theories collide
August 24, 2010 | Galynn Nordstrom
The topic of corporate social responsibility has formed the basis for a number of my editorials and blogs, in print and online, over the past couple of years. I wish I could say that the ensuing discussions have prompted brisk sales of an entire line of “WWMMD” (What would Miss Management do?”) products and the creation of a nascent financial empire for the editorial staff of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine, but so far, except for some very thoughtful comments from a few IFAI members, my anti-Friedman stance hasn’t resulted in much more than an occasional “How’s your silly liberal commie pinko self today?” from IFAI’s vice president of conference management. And he’s joking, mostly. Probably.
Last May (May 26, “When geeks rule the earth—and the economy”), I suggested revising Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics into a set of rules which might define the parameters for a socially responsible business. Here they are again, since I am determined to pursue this at least once more:
First Law: A business may not injure a society, or, through inaction, allow a society to come to harm.
Second Law: A business must obey all the laws of a society, except where such laws would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law: A business must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Hardcore capitalists argue that the market will regulate itself in these respects, ultimately finding that social and environmental responsibility will eventually happen “because it’s just good business.” Based on those three laws, I would argue the converse: for a business that puts social and environmental benefits first, profits will happen—because it’s just good business. So why wait for the market to regulate itself? Anything that a society asks of an individual can legitimately be asked of a business as well.
I’m hoping that many of you will comment here, pro or con, even though Miss Management’s nascent financial empire hasn’t yet extended itself to cover the production of environmentally sound and fiscally attractive “I (heart) Miss Management” buttons to send out to correspondents. But I may try to persuade IFAI’s vice president of conference management to let me print up some tee-shirts with my three laws to distribute from our publications booth at IFAI Expo Americas 2010 this October.
Our September issue of Specialty Fabrics Review includes our annual show preview; if you’ll be joining us in Orlando, you can now start organizing your time at the show—and put a gold star over booths 1855-1857 on the map, because that’s where we’ll be, waiting for your editorial ideas.
In the meantime, consider this: If somebody else decides to print environmentally sound and fiscally attractive tee-shirts that show my three laws inside a circle with a slash through it—are they obeying the three laws?