Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Peacocks, BP and Kevin Bacon

"Peacocks, BP and Kevin Bacon" read one of the slides we used today in group debate on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Confused? Let me then start afresh.

Each Monday morning our stream has Business Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility. The best thing about the course this year is a group debate that is held each lecture on a separate topic.
For instance, last Monday two groups presented pros and cons of bribery (should a company use bribery when it operates in a country where bribery is common practice). And though the "pro" group brought chocolates for the whole audience, they lost. Sorry, guys, I voted for you :)
It looked like touchy-feely side won all the time. So when we gathered last week to prepare our presentation on the pro side of "The only social responsibility of a law-abiding business is to maximize shareholders' value" the general mood was: "There's no way we can win this, so why not have some fun?"
In order to prepare we had four group meetings, each time with a new central idea, including:
1) Milton Friedman (he is the father of "profit as the only social responsibility"),
2) The Godfather ("It's nothing personal, Sonny, it's strictly business"),
3) video with Warren Buffett giving his money to Gates foundation not as a businessman but as a person,
4) wheel of fortune ...
...and somehow ended up with peacocks (all the credit goes to the President of the Poker Club who presented it to us late on Sunday evening between two deals).

So what do peacocks, BP and Kevin Bacon have in common?
Basically peacocks use bright feathers to attract peahens. And modern companies use social responsibility to attract customers. And everything you can think of, even social responsibility, can be linked in less than 6 steps to Kevin Bacon- ahem, to Profit Maximization.
The "good" team that prepared slides independently was arguing that businesses should be socially responsible. Why? Well, because it's profitable to the companies... gotcha!
For the first time this term in our stream, "bad" guys has won the debate :)