Business for good: a better bottom line

Businesses can be a force for good when they serve customers, drive life-improving innovations, and enable employees to find fulfillment in their work. Yet that’s often not the case today. Too many of America’s largest companies pursue profit by seeking government favors at everyone else’s expense. We’re working to change that. We want a system in which businesses only benefit by benefiting others first, creating goods and services that people truly value and doing so responsibly and in a way that consumes fewer resources. Such a system also enables employees to live lives of meaning, treating them as unique and creative individuals, not cogs in a machine. That’s a better bottom line for businesses, employees, customers, and society alike.

We want a system in which businesses only benefit themselves by benefiting others, creating goods and services that people truly value and doing so responsibly and in a way that consumes fewer resources.

Our vision in action

  • Chris Rufer is one of hundreds of business and philanthropic leaders who joined the Stand Together community to ensure that the American dream is open to everybody, in part by reducing cronyism and corporate welfare that have sewn distrust toward the role of business.
  • The UNCF Koch Scholars Program helps undergraduates learn the fundamentals of principled entrepreneurship and innovation, equipping these future leaders with the knowledge and skills to succeed by helping others succeed as well.

Guiding principles and insights

Create value for customers, not special favors from government

History demonstrates breakthrough innovations and progress come when business is rewarded not by currying favors from government but by innovating new products and services that people value—from the Wright Brothers to Henry Ford to Steve Jobs. We want a system that enables more of these life-enhancing innovations that increase everyone’s standard of living.

Unfortunately, our economy is increasingly driven as much by—if not more than—influence rather than innovation. For example, in a recent six-year period, 200 of America’s largest companies received $4.4 trillion in bailouts, subsidies, and other handouts—costing around $35,000 per U.S. household. Unsurprisingly, nearly three in five Americans don’t trust business leaders today.

We want to reverse this dynamic. We’re working to create a system in which businesses only benefit by benefitting their customers—and society as a whole—first. It’s why the Stand Together community united principled business leaders, policymakers from both parties, and citizens across the country to eliminate government favors that enable companies to profit at others’ expense.

That means reducing all forms of corporate welfare, which pad businesses’ bottom lines by giving tax dollars to well-connected companies. It means reducing unnecessary occupational licensing laws, which protect business profits by charging up to thousands of dollars for a “license” that would-be competitors cannot afford. And it means developing a modern regulatory system that enables technological advances while safeguarding the public interest, compared to the current system that serves to protect large companies that can afford the extraordinary costs.

Work should be rewarding, fulfilling, and an opportunity for employees to realize their potential.

Empower employees to lead the 21st century forward

Empowered employees are essential for success in a rapidly changing economy—not only to the benefit of their employers, but also for themselves and their families. Meanwhile, Gallup reports companies with the most engaged employees are more successful on every performance metric—they make firms safer, more profitable, and more innovative.

Yet, today many businesses fail to harness their employees’ ingenuity, adopting authoritarian management models with rigid hierarchies. The result is employees who find work mind-numbing, or even soul-crushing. Gallup estimates 85 percent of employees feel disengaged in their job, while London School of Economics Professor David Graeber observed many feel stuck in “BS jobs” where they don’t see how their work contributes to society.

We want to change that. But it cannot be achieved through public policy reforms. There must also be cultural change within the business community to empower employees. That’s especially important in a 21st century economy. McKinsey Global Institute estimates automation could displace 73 million current jobs but create even more new kinds of jobs. Machines will always have the edge with rote work, but people excel at creativity and collaboration. We envision a system that fosters both—where new technologies complement and empower employees.

More examples of the work supported by the Stand Together community:

In education
In communities
  • Social enterprises such as The Last Mile and Women’s Bean Project to help ensure everybody has the opportunity to succeed in the 21 century economy.

  • Coalfield Development is a workforce development program that combines the passion of the nonprofit sector with the efficiency of the for-profit sector to retrain employees in declining industries to revitalize entire communities.

In business
  • Pioneering companies and innovative technologies supported by Trust Ventures help new businesses succeed in highly regulated industries.
  • Business consulting services through the MBM® Center—which is led by a group of retired Koch Industries executives—help business leaders implement the values of principled entrepreneurship in their companies.
In government
  • The Mercatus Center at George Mason University is the nation’s leading authority on “permissionless innovation,” producing research that informs public policy reforms that enable businesses to responsibly innovate and advance 21st century technologies.
  • Support policy champions at all levels of government who will level the playing field by reducing corporate welfare and cronyism.

Bottom Line

Businesses can be a force for good when they serve customers, drive life-improving innovations, and enable employees to find fulfillment in their work. In short, businesses should strive to succeed by helping others succeed. That’s a better bottom line.