The Business Of Business : IN THE BALANCE. Globally executives and students see a new dynamic in the contest between doing well and doing good.

BY 2021, businesses accounted for 72% of the economic output in major industrial countries - triple what they did 60 years before - and, of that, more than one-third of the gross value comes from just 5,000 companies, like Danone.

With revenues topping $1 billion, according to a study by the Intergovernmental Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] and the consultancy McKinsey.

How those companies succeed in cutting their carbon emissions - or in tackling problems like human-rights abuses, inequality or racial justice - will have a significant impact on the state of the world, for better or worse 

Of the 2,000 companies analyzed by the organization  Net Zero Tracker, 682 have declared target dates by which they aim to zero out their carbon emissions. Brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's have vowed to cut plastic waste, and automakers like GM and Volkswagen say they aim to end the production of fossil-fuel cars within the near future.

There are holes in all these premises, but one thing is now clear; for companies, it has become a risk not to make them. The actual debate now is whether tackling those issues - ''purpose driven capitalism,'' as is known - is in sync or in conflict with what businesses have always thought was their main job : making money.

''People ask me, ''Is there a dissonance between profits and purpose? ' ''. says Dau Schuman, PayPal's president and CEO, who has said he aims to bring his social views to the financial technology giant, where he has hiked pay and cut employees' health care costs.

''My view is that profits and purpose are fully linked together,'' he tells TIME from his home in Palo Alto, Calif. ''We cannot just be about maximizing our profits next quarter. We need to be part of our societies,'' he says. ''We need to think about the medium term and the long term, and we need to act accordingly.''

More and more businesses leaders have begun to echo that opinion. ''Those voices were especially loud during the months leading up to the COP26 climate talks last fall, when corporate executives and government officials converged in Glasgow for the biggest such negotiations ever.

In advance of the gathering, hundreds of companies raced to declare commitments to environmental and social issues and to set net-zero targets.

Despite the trend toward purpose-driven capitalism, one fundamental truth remains : ''If you go bankrupt, or get taken over, you certainly cannot be investing in the long term,'' says Goldin, the Oxford professor, whose 2021 book Rescue examined how businesses have weathered the pandemic.'You need to be successful in the short term to think about the long term,'' he says.

The optimistic view is that those two needs -short- term profits and long-term vision - might finally be inching together, after decades in which the first has dominated the second.

One hint is the steep rise in ESG [ environmental, social and governance ] investment funds that focus on these issues.

Even though the vast majority of regular people have little idea of what harm the companies in their pension funds might wreak on the planet or in communities - and it's still unclear how quickly that might change - the new money plowed into those funds, which claim to be attracting trillions of dollars, more than doubled from 2019-2020.

And increasingly, CEOs realize they can hire top talent and keep customers loyalty if their companies are seen as championing environmental and social issues.

''I am beginning to see more and more shareholders embrace that concept,'' says PayPal CEO Schuman. He says that major shareholders had told him in a meeting the previous day that they appreciated the company's diversity and equity program.

''We do it regardless, because it is the right thing to do,'' he says. ''But it is nice it is being noticed.''

The Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Vivienne Wait and Eloise Barry. 


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