Let’s begin by defining ‘enlightened’ within the context of this question regarding business. Enlightened must in this circumstance involve having a wider perspective than what is usually so overwhelmingly important in business, making money and lots of it. The bigger picture must be considered, which can include the basic happiness of all parties involved in the transaction and as many associated parties as well. By this I mean, the people that maybe manufactured the product, transported it, distributed it and everyone else connected to the trade. The earth and the environment needs to be considered, as well, if business is to be adjudged truly enlightened.
Can Business Ever Be Truly Enlightened?
So, as you can see, there are a lot of stake holders involved in every business transaction; and this is only really scratching the surface. A truly holistic understanding traces the chain of production in every direction from beginning to end, including its waste management. There is a small but concerted push amongst some business people to bring this enlightened understanding to business. Businesses like The Body Shop, Planet Ark and to a lesser degree companies like Virgin Airlines, have all attempted to expand the level of holistic responsibility in how they do business around the globe.
There does seem to be a veritable tug of war or elastic band polarity dynamic going back and forth between forces of enlightenment, as embodied by business people like Anita Roddick and Richard Branson and the old school ‘profit before all other things’ type of business people. Global warming has been a recent example of this, with the world jumping up and down to do something about this for a couple of years, before the ‘global financial crisis’ saw the forces of profit first taking over and telling us that we cannot afford to worry about tomorrow.
Is helping people while doing business at the same time a possibility in business or a pipedream? Are those greedy rats in thrall to a pied piper and will we pay the piper when our streets are cleaned of them? Enlightened business is not about ignoring the profit motive, it is really about expanding the whole equation. The cost of production needs to factor in the price of pollution in carbon. It also needs to include the price of the wellbeing of all those involved in producing the product. Cheaper things in the short term often end up costing all of us much more in the long run. They call this new way of counting the costs of doing business, ‘ethical business‘. Business ethics are then priced accordingly to avoid an algorithm which fails our test of enlightenment.