The recent passing of economist Milton Friedman offers a timely opportunity to reconsider the future role of business and, indeed, the future role of the MBA.
It's been over 35 years since Milton Friedman declared that "the social responsibility of business is to increase profits" in an essay published in the New York Times. Freidman's words set forth a standard against which any discussions of the purpose of business were measured. His views on the role of business elevated him to an icon of laissez-faire style capitalism.
A great deal has changed in the years since Friedman’s essay was published in the Times. We have arrived at a point where the catastrophic implications of global climate change call for a new discussion on the role of business - and business leaders. These days, it seems that operating in a manner that seeks only to increase profits, without regard to environmental and social costs, risks lawsuits, regulatory action and loss of brand value. Any one of these can be detrimental to shareholder value and long-term profits. The future calls for leaders that can develop and lead profitable, competitive businesses that are sustainable, both in a social and environmental way. Where will these future leaders come from?
In a recent guest opinion column in USA Today, Alan Webber, co-founding editor of Fast Company and former editorial director of the Harvard Business Review, examines the connection between the recent wave of corporate scandals and the fact that business traditionally serves no "higher purpose" than making money....