Michael Porter: Why business can be good at solving social problems
This has been one of my favorite TED Talks in pulling together the various factors that currently plague society, and simplifying it into digestible form. The speaker, Michael Porter, is considered a management guru and likely anyone who has taken any formal business classes has heard his name. His biggest claim to fame is the establishment of what is now referred to as the Porter’s Five Forces model. It is essentially a tool for assessing the various external factors that will effect your business. In his talk, Porter basically extents his analytical framework into the social realm. What are some of the biggest problems facing the planet today, and how can we solve them?
According to Porter, the solutions lie in harnessing the power of business. The welfare of our societies and the natural environment need not be at odds with businesses’ pursuit of profits. Indeed, achieving profitability is one way of attaining (and thereby ensuring) sustainability. As described by Porter, industry has the scale and expertise to effectively address many of the social ills confronting us at present. Considering that the previously mentioned attributes are needed to help alleviate the current global woes, then it becomes obvious that such strengths be applied towards the development of sustainable solutions.
Undoubtedly, business leaders need to adopt a creative and proactive mindset when evaluating sustainability, yet environmentalists can exhibit a similar mindset through their cooperation with industry. Clearly, when examining industrial operations, there exist bad actors that have aggravated or perhaps even caused some of our contemporary social problems, yet in advocating for optimism, Porter reminds us of a business fundamental. Business are indeed motivated by profits. If we can therefore attest to the power and profitability of doing good (which is evidently the case), then we can leverage the might of business towards resolving our social problems. Watch on if you’re interested, I highly recommend it.