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Posted 10.25.05

In today’s trust-starved world of business scandals and collapses, global capitalism is put to a new test. Is it possible to operate an enterprise with elevated purpose, integrity and transparency, while still delivering financial results?

Ira Jackson and Jane Nelson offer an unequivocally affirmative answer to this question in their 2004 Profits with Principles: Seven Strategies for Delivering Value with Values published by Currency Doubleday. The authors’ “strong belief that tomorrow’s most successful and competitive companies will be those that combine a commitment to profitability with an explicit commitment to advancing the public interest” is backed by examples from sixty diverse companies that have made values integral to their business strategy.

More than a mere analytical piece, Profits with Principles is a practical guide to harvesting business and societal benefit through values-based operations. Based on empirical data, Jackson and Nelson derived seven principles as a broad framework for leadership action. Among them is #1 Harness Innovation for the Public Good, demonstrated by DuPont’s innovative metric of shareholder value added per pound of product; #2 Put People at the Center, which allowed Alcoa to reduce its lost workday injury rate by more than 90% since 1988; and #4 Engage in New Alliances, as in the case of Nike and the Global Alliance for Workers and Communities, which allowed the company to tackle human rights issues in the supply chain issue in a win-win way for all parties involved.

Throughout the chapters, Jackson and Nelson make it increasingly clear that there is no easy answer or ideal company to follow. The challenges of the new era in market economy require investment, conviction, innovation, and strategy – all the traditional strength of business enterprise. Yet, not one company has the “total package” of mechanisms and strategies for sustainable value creation, but rather offers specific innovations to be scaled up and disseminated.

“None of the companies we profile gets it right all the time. Almost every company has faced financial or reputation crises. Some have stumbled in the past; others undoubtedly will trip or be found wanting in the future; and a few face major leadership challenges today. While their experiences represent a cautionary tale of how complicated today’s terrain is to navigate, they illustrate a constructive new approach to doing business. This is an approach that we believe is creating a new competitive context for the twenty-first century and will increasingly become a requirement for future success, perhaps even survival”, say Jackson and Nelson.

By Nadya Zhexembayeva



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