Thursday, March 23, 2006

Enlightened self-interest?

A few days ago the Body Shop was sucked up by L’Oreal and now, literally closer to my home, Tom's of Maine has been bought by Colgate-Palmolive. Is this a defeat in the battle between wicked corporations and socially responsible businesses or a positive trend that highlights the growth of enlightened self-interest, where big businesses are learning that do gooding matters for profits and people? I am going to pay attention.

I like the term "enlightened self-interest," which first resonated with me while watching a BBC documentary on the Africa Live concert to fight Malaria. (Very good concert and film!) The documentary showed an interview with a representative of ExxonMobil, one of the main funders of the event. He was pretty inarticulate and awkward and many people watching the film groaned in cynicism. But commentary by one of the film makers after the movie highlighted that in today's world, we may scoff at ExxonMobil for being involved in such a campaign, but that the ExxonMobil employee's "enlightened self interest might be the best we get."

I tend to agree.

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