The other night I was invited to dinner with several wealthy and powerful people. This is not a normal thing for me. During appetizers and drinks I was a wallflower, but opened up over the first course when my dinner companions asked what I did.
“I just wrote a book,” I responded.
“Interesting! What about?” they asked.
“How the world was overtaken by the belief that the right choice in any decision is whichever option makes the most money,” I replied. “My book tells the history of that idea and what we should do instead.”
A mixture of expressions greeted me. Some people leaned in with curiosity. Some leaned in with annoyance. Others were already looking for somebody else to talk to.
“The idea that all decisions are about money just isn’t true,” the group responded. “Companies think about profits, sure. But profits are a result of good decisions, not the reason for them.”
At this moment a new person sat down to join us. He turned out to be the CEO of an outdoors company. Not the founder — someone from the private equity firm that had bought a controlling stake. After some pleasantries, I asked the outdoors CEO a question.
“If someone were to show you that the future prospects of your company and the way of life your product enables would greatly benefit over the long-term by investing in the sustainability of your products, and even things like planting trees, right now, could you see the case for that? Can you imagine doing that?”
Heads turned toward him.
“I know what you’re trying to do, ” he said with a smile, and went on to say this wasn’t his company’s job.
This response wasn’t unexpected. I was asking him to consider investing financial resources into creating non-financial returns. Any CEO would say no to this. There wasn’t a financial ROI. Still, I asked the question again.
According to GDP, an ideal citizen is someone who…