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The Sustainable Network by Sarah Sorensen

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Chapter 19. Doing Good by Doing Right

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You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.

Woodrow Wilson

What is the role of business, and what is its responsibility to the larger good? For decades, some have argued that fostering economic opportunities and general prosperity is the only social role that businesses need to play—the jobs and money they bring into the communities, as well as the benefits derived from their products and services, are their contributions to the world. Others argue that monetary success needs to be balanced with a general respect for the overall impacts on the environment and the communities that their operations create; if businesses strip communities or landscapes of their inherent worth, they have a responsibility to replenish that value (and, ideally, would do all they could to prevent its depletion in the first place). There is still another argument that places the role of business in the middle of the social food chain, arguing that it is the duty of a business to proactively drive social and environmental improvements, sharing its knowledge and prosperity to prevent disproportionate wealth striations in society, and thereby creating a more productive ...

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