What Matters Most: How a Small Group of Pioneers Is Teaching Social Responsibility to Big Business, and Why Big Business Is Listening

What Matters Most: How a Small Group of Pioneers Is Teaching Social Responsibility to Big Business, and Why Big Business Is Listening

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What matters most in business?

Traditionally, the answer to this question has been straightforward: growth, quarterly profits, and shareholder value. Everything else was an "externality," which is economists' jargon for "someone else's problem." But as Jeffrey Hollender and Stephen Fenichell tell us, the bottom line isn't enough anymore. Not because corporations have suddenly become enamored of losing money, but because consumers, shareholders and the general public are demanding better behavior. They want businesses to be better citizens-to do more to make sure their products are healthy and safe, their manufacturing processes cause as little pollution as possible, and their employment policies are humane and not harmful to local communities. Across the country and the world, there's an evolving consensus that we need new standards to measure and reward business performance.

The emergence of Corporate Social Responsibility is more than just a PR tactic, sales strategy, or management trend. It's the future of business. It's what companies have to do to survive and prosper in a world where more and more of their behavior is under a microscope.

But becoming a better corporate citizen is not as easy as posting slogans in the office canteen. What Matters Most describes the real-world struggles of well-known companies as they confront the dilemmas of social responsibility. How much can Starbucks-far from the world's largest coffee buyer-reasonably do to improve the conditions under which its coffee is grown? If Nike knows that publicizing its improving record on factory conditions will only draw fire because that record is not perfect, where's the value in striving for transparency? If Microsoft gives away $1 billion worth of software each year to needy nonprofits, is that genuine charity or an attempt to build market share? And what does it mean when a company is bought? If Ben & Jerry's once sold Peace Pops as an expression of its social values, is it the same when Unilever, Ben & Jerry's new owner, continues selling Peace Pops because they fit the brand identity?

What Matters Most is a report from the front lines of a social revolution by one of its most thoughtful and committed leaders. Based on hundreds of interviews with activists, CSR experts and business leaders at both small and large companies, this book takes nothing for granted and does not hesitate to ask the tough questions. There is no better guide to the real dilemmas, and real promise, of the corporate social responsibility movement.