In this opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, strategy professor Aneel Karnani examines the delicate balance between public and shareholder interests.
Can companies do well by doing good? Yes — sometimes.
But the idea that companies have a responsibility to act in the public interest and will profit from doing so is fundamentally flawed.
Large companies now routinely claim that they aren't in business just for the profits, that they're also intent on serving some larger social purpose. They trumpet their efforts to produce healthier foods or more fuel-efficient vehicles, conserve energy and other resources in their operations, or otherwise make the world a better place. Influential institutions like the Academy of Management and the United Nations, among many others, encourage companies to pursue such strategies.