Business with a conscience

May 19, 2012

Every corporation, now matter how socially or environmentally destructive, presents itself as doing something good for consumers, for communities, for the species, or even the planet. Monsanto, for instance, claims to be all about “improving lives” (though notice they don’t say whose lives) and about “meeting the needs of today while preserving the planet for tomorrow.” This overt corporate public relations bullshit (I know that you know that I don’t believe this but I’m going to pretend I do because that’s how I make a lot of money) has led to such profound cynicism that reasonable people have to wonder whether it is even possible to do well by doing good. Is it possible to engage in productive work and earn a decent living from something that really does benefit people and does not destroy the planet in the process? It think the answer to this question is yes and that it is important that people, especially young people, see some real-life examples to demonstrate this. Here I present some information on two remarkable individuals both of whom are running for-profit businesses but ones that clearly put important social, political, and ethical values above profits. These two individuals are living examples of how people don’t have to bury their conscience to make a living or run a business.

1. Dan Phillips

A former dance instructor who taught himself carpentry and plumbing and now runs a company (Phoenix Commotion) building energy-efficient homes out of recycled materials for low-income families. In addition to housing people who cannot afford homes, Phillips is reducing landfill waste, organizing his community to recycle more, providing employment to others, and creating a most-welcome aesthetic alternative to the standardized cookie-cutter housing that pollutes so much of the landscape.

Here is a New York Times article on Dan, and below is his brilliant TED lecture with images of many of his homes. 

 2. David Bronner

The president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap runs a business that manufactures amazing soap products based on natural, organic, and fair-trade ingredients. Bronner is also involved in a political battle in California to force food manufacturers to label products containing GMOs, is involved in the epic struggle against Monsanto (Occupy-Monsanto), and is leading the fight for the legalization of hemp in the US. By insisting on only fair trade products in the company’s supply chains, Bronner is helping marginalized farmers and producers around thew world, including in the Occupied West Bank, Ghana, and India. As the following-two-part interview reveals, there have been many offers to buy this profitable company, but the key to Bronner’s success as an activist and human being, is that he is not willing to sell-out.

Democracy Now interview with David Bronner (Part 1); (Part 2)

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