What’s the Point of Business?

By Tony Tiernan

What is business for, exactly? Who should it serve? Events are telling us that we need to come up with much better answers to those questions than we have today.

We have a unique opportunity to re-frame the relationship between business and society, and to create new value and meaning for all of us.

Across the developed world right now we are seeing deep disillusionment with traditional business on three counts. First, its failure to improve the lot of the majority of citizens in the past 30 years. Second, its destructive impact on the planet. Third, its failure to provide meaning in return for occupying more and more of its employees’ psychic space.

The wealth generated by our current shareholder-value driven version of capitalism has been flowing to an ever-smaller group of beneficiaries. Meanwhile the damage done to the environment and climate by extraction-based and consumption-driven economies now threatens the future of all people.

We need to re-think the “why” of business so we can develop a better “how”, one that meets our real human needs.

At Authentic Identity we believe the purpose of business should be to improve society by generating meaning, wealth and opportunity for all. That is, business is not primarily about maximizing the short-term return to shareholders (although they deserve a fair return on their investments), but about enabling a better society in the long run. The brand is the story that each organization tells about how it will contribute uniquely to that end.

Young people, our future, are increasingly unattracted by traditional corporate careers, increasingly repelled by the environmental consequences of consumerism, and increasingly unwilling to swallow self-serving corporate narratives whether as employees or customers.

Good. That’s what we need to energize our efforts to build a meaningful, equitable and sustainable future. It’s an exciting challenge. Will you rise to it?