Geri Stengel

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Competency Doesn't Mean Heartlessness: Businesses Can Be Profitable and Compassionate

I've said my piece about the competency of nonprofits – they are competent! – but now I have to speak up for businesses – they can be trustworthy, compassionate, and ethical.

That is not the perception of businesses in the survey recently published by Stanford University. The study indicated that nonprofits are viewed as trustworthy and incompetent. It found that corporations are viewed as competent but not trustworthy or "moral."

corporate social responsibility, small business owners, socially responsible, entrepreneur, ethicsWhere do I begin? So many ethical, compassionate, trustworthy socially responsible corporations come to mind! Let's start with the "B Corporation" movement, which is made up of companies large and small that have written social responsibility into their incorporation papers. Examples: Method personal care and Seventh Generation home cleaning products, both of which are sold nationwide and both of which are organic, non-toxic and triple-bottom line oriented.

These are big guys, folks, and they are profitable as well as socially responsible.

Small businesses are also socially responsible, right down to their whole purpose for being. That includes chocolatiers (Fair Trade Is More Than a Label, When Less Is More) to flip-flop manufacturers.

The Social Venture Network includes Domini Social Investments, the first investment firm to direct investment based on triple-bottom-line factors.

Yes, this is a laundry list of socially responsible businesses and business associations. Which proves my point: Businesses, large and small, are socially responsible, trustworthy, and ethical.

It's up to us, the socially responsible entrepreneurs and small business owners, to change the public's perception of business as somehow tawdry. The Madoffs, Enrons, and WorldComs have done us harm. They were big, bad, and highly publicized.

And their toxins are spread by popular essayists, such as Malcolm Gladwell, who dubs entreprenuers as non-risk taking and "predatory." Not! I've said my piece on that nonsense as well.

Yes, we've had a run of very bad examples. Yes, there are greedy, unethical business out there. But, dang! That's not who we are. That is not what our sector represents. We need to publicize the good side of our sector.

Let's get our PR machine rolling!

Any ideas how? What can we do let people know that businesses, whether designated "social enterprises" or just a small business serving its community, have ethical standards and care about more than big bucks?