Being businessworthy is to apply your business energy ethically and responsibly with the purpose of creating economic value, as well as value for society.

The concept of being businessworthy can serve as a communicating metaphor to business people. It is linked to the concept of creditworthiness, as understood by every businessperson: being Worthy the Business of your relationships, your customers and suppliers, your co-workers, and the communities you act within. Thus, it is a relevant concept of conduct in a modern business environment.

An increasingly adversarial relationship between business and society led to the emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), as companies saw a need to deliver evidence of their desire to conduct business responsibly. Experience has shown, however, that CSR falls short of the goal for a variety of reasons: it is rarely proactive, instead often reactive and as a result seen to be apologizing for transgressions; and it is rarely strategic and long-term, instead seen as scattershot and random. In both instances, CSR may actually work to the detriment of the business seeking to draw benefits from it. Efforts are often seen by a skeptical society as band-aids to serious problems, and leading business thinkers point to the paradox that CSR has opened up businesses for more criticism, not less. Terms such as ‘whitewash’ and ‘greenwash’ are frequently used to characterize CSR efforts, and often with justification.

We are now in a situation where business has come to see society as hampering its growth through excessive regulation; and society tends to see business as prospering at the expense of the wider community. It is important to explore how one can rebuild the trust that has been lost between business and society.

In a reknowned article in the Harvard Business Review, Professor Michael E. Porter is critical of businesses that wonder why society has come to believe companies are prospering at the expense of the wider community: “A big part of the problem lies with companies themselves, which remain trapped in an outdated approach to value creation that has emerged over the past few decades. They continue to view value creation narrowly, optimizing short-term financial performance in a bubble while missing the most important customer needs and ignoring the broader influences that determine their longer-term success. How else could companies overlook the wellbeing of their customers, the depletion of natural resources vital to their businesses, the viability of key suppliers, or the economic distress of communities in which they produce and sell? How else could companies think that simply shifting activities to locations with ever lower wages was a sustainable «solution» to competitive challenges?” (1)

The Business for Peace Foundation was established upon the conviction that the world needs to be made aware of the transformative and positive change that business can create. Meanwhile, it is convinced of the gainful nature of a higher form of capitalism, and we seek to create global awareness among all stakeholders of this better way of doing business.

The Foundation finds inspiration in a dictum of the business philosopher Adam Smith, who declared that “Markets could not flourish without a strong underlying moral culture, animated by empathy and fellow-feeling, by our ability to understand our common bond as human beings and to recognize the needs of others.” When the Foundation coined the term businessworthy, it was from a desire to redefine modern business practice through Smith’s moral sentiment as to what makes markets flourish.

The Business for Peace Foundation names Honourees who are living proof that it is possible to marry solid business performance with higher purposes, as a counter to those who claim that “the business of business is business.” Mr. Anders Dahlvig of Sweden, who was a 2009 Honouree, and at the time CEO of IKEA, described the motivational strength found in good trust when he accepted his award: “Companies such as IKEA, whose purpose and vision have a social ambition, that goes beyond the traditional objectives of maximising shareholder wealth, have an advantage. I believe that most people want a purpose and a meaning with what they do for a living. If this purpose contributes to doing good work for others, it is a tremendous motivator.”

Capitalism stands at the threshold of an evolution, where many factors are calling for a reexamination of the principles hereto followed. “The moment for an expanded view of value creation has come,” writes Professor Porter. “A host of factors, such as the growing social awareness of the employees and citizens and the increased scarcity of natural resources, will drive unprecedented opportunities to create shared value.”

(1) Creating Shared Value – How to reinvent capitalism – and unleash a wave of innovation and growth, by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer, Harvard Business Review, Jan-Feb 2011. [article preview]

* Rebuilding the trust proposition_BfPF, by Per L. Saxegaard, Business for Peace Foundation. [PDF file]

* Wiktionary: businessworthy

* Wikipedia: The Business for Peace Foundation