Who is the historic founder of Corporate Social Responsibility? Why has it grown in importance?



It’s fascinating that many would give the nod to a man who also founded libraries, universities and contributed countless other initiatives and inventions that improved the modern world – Benjamin Franklin.

One of Franklin’s brilliant and oft-cited aphorisms, as true today as in his day, was the advice to “Do well by doing good“—for the community.

And that of course is the essence of the philosophy that has driven the modern success of the Satell Institute.

What business value can there be for today’s CEO in a centuries’ old adage?

While it goes without saying that the primary focus of the for-profit world is, and must be, shareholder value, what has become increasingly clear is that appropriate consideration of other stakeholders, including the well-being of the communities in which companies operate, is a key component of maximizing shareholder value.  In other words, Franklin had it right.  Corporations do well by doing good.

Harvard Business Review Validation

In their 2011 Harvard business review essay, “Creating Shared Value”, Michael Porter and Mark R. Kramer discussed, “policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates”.

Franklin’s legend shows that he embodied this throughout his own life, combining success in business with ceaseless efforts to improve the quality of life around him. This includes his local community in Philadelphia, to the new nation he helped form, and indeed to the wider world beyond.

Nonprofits partnering with for-profits for the greater good

Meanwhile, nonprofits are increasingly exploring alternative new problem-solving models. They strive to achieve sustainability and scale of impact even as they adjust to lower levels of government funding and increased competition for private contributions. In other words, innovative nonprofits have to live by the Franklinesque dictum, “no money, no mission” and are therefore evolving new ways to “do good while doing well.”

Such cutting-edge thinking, on both sides of the for- profit/nonprofit divide, is advanced by the partnerships between corporations and nonprofits fostered by the Satell Institute and its bedrock principle of long-term mutually beneficial relationships between the two sectors.  Both are, in their own ways, pillars of the American free enterprise system.

Benjamin Franklin was as much the disruptive inventor and entrepreneur as he was a statesman.  Franklin lived in the time in which his fellow public intellectual, Adam Smith, was writing the definitive texts on the principles of free enterprise. While they both lived before the hot and cold wars between capitalism and socialism, it is clear which side they would have been on. Equally clear their vision of free enterprise, a vision rooted in morality and integrity which predicted the CSR movement now being championed by the Satell Institute. This vision led the way for our contemporary understanding of the inexorable connection between business success and Corporate Social Responsibility.

The author of this Insight is Craig Snyder, President & CEO of the nonpartisan World Affairs Council of Philadelphia

Satell Institute Growth Continues

Membership at SI continues to grow with great companies and private foundations choosing to support Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Our members recognize a Collective Force can do more for communities than any organization can do on its own.

This week we welcome the largest and longest-standing locally managed bank and trust company, WSFS Bank, headquartered in Delaware and the Greater Delaware Valley. 180 years young, “Wiss Fiss to its friends” has more than 150 branches in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Nevada.   Service is a priority, and WSFS provides comprehensive financial commercial banking, retail banking, cash management and trust and wealth management.  They are “guided by the simple idea that when you do the right thing and treat people with a Customer First® mentality, good things happen.”

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