Does Giving Away the Profits Change Anything?

Lots of people see the profit motive as the source of lots of unethical behaviour in business. (This is a variant on the claim that money — or the love of it — is the source of all evil.) So, if a company were to give away all of their profits, would that help?

See this item, from the new “Sustainable Business Design” blog:

HtoO (Hope to Others) is a bottled water company in California founded by Tom Shadyac, a successful Hollywood director. The water source is a spring in the Sierra-Nevada mountains. So what’s the big deal? HtoO gives 100% of its profits to charity. Yes, one hundred percent!

So, no profits = no evil motives, right? Hard to imagine that that’s right. HtoO is presumably still interested in generating profits…it just isn’t interested in keeping them, or in giving them to shareholders. Indeed, it’s entirely possible that the kind of charitable zeal that leads to this kind of philanthropy might just justify (or seem to justify) lots of business practices that most people would find objectionable. Oh, but if you’re trying to do good, that means you are good, all the time, right? Right?

Just to be clear, I’m not trying to cast doubt either on Mr. Shadyac’s motives or his (or his company’s) ethics. Just pointing out (again) that motives are typically complex and often obscure, and that the profit motive is neither necessary, nor sufficient, to produce corporate wrong-doing.

HtoO’s website

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