Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Giving Back to the Community?

Much has been written about the 'social responsibility' of corporations and how they should 'give back' to the community. The company I work for is working on just such a plan. I don't have a problem with a company offering to do things which aid the 'community' but I do have a problem with the phrase 'Giving back to the community'. The phrase makes it sound as if companies improperly 'take' things from the community and therefore need to 'give back'. It perpetuates the notion that corporations are somehow evil. I believe this to be a false perception.

Companies typically sell goods and services to willing customers. Presumably if someone pays money for a good or service it's because they feel that they will be better off with the good or service than if they had the cash. The company benefits by receiving cash and customers benefit by receiving goods and services. Nothing is taken. The 'community' is not harmed. It could be argued that companies that pollute or engage in illegal or unethical activities are harming the community, but the reality is that most successful companies don't operate this way. Instead, by their very existence, they benefit the community by providing employment, purchasing goods and services from others, etc.

The simple truth is that for the vast majority of companies that operate on an ethical basis, there is no need to 'give back' to the community. It doesn't mean that companies can't do some additional good things for the community, but this should simply be thought of as 'Giving to the community' and not 'Giving back to the community'. It's only a one word change, but the change in meaning is enormous.