Corporate Responsibility

When Profit and Purpose Intersect

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Can businesses pursue both profit and social purpose? It’s a question that I get often, and the answer may be found in Fortune’s latest Change the World issue, which lists companies that do well by doing good.  

It’s not trivial; there is a crisis of confidence in the tech sector’s ethics. People want to work for purpose-driven businesses. So, my answer is always the same: Without purpose, there can be no profit. And if there is no profit, it’s hard to be successfully purpose-driven. 

Take IBM’s Food Trust, which Fortune includes on its list. Food Trust uses blockchain to help the agri-food industry securely share information to ensure a safer and more efficient food supply chain. Members can trace and track the origins and inventory of problematic food in just 2.2 seconds, down from seven days. This potentially reduces the impact of food borne illness and allows faster, more precise, and less costly food recalls. 

With greater insight into their supply chains, Food Trust members Albertsons, Carrefour, Dole, Driscoll’s, Golden State Foods, Nestle, and Walmart also improve food freshness and sustainability, while reducing food waste and fraud.

Trust and responsibility have been cornerstones of IBM’s business values for more than 100 years. We live these stated values every day. They permeate and animate our relationships with employees, clients, shareholders, and hometown communities. 

When we apply science and technology to real world problems, we create progress. From enabling Social Security, to putting a man on the moon, IBM has proved time and again that profit and purpose are two sides of the same coin.

So, yes. Done right, businesses really can have it both ways.

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