Re: Profit as Reward LO2727

Michael McMaster (
Sat, 9 Sep 1995 20:51:44 +0000

Replying to LO2709 --

As offered by Lily and pursued by Barry, the idea that profit is a
result of serving society is central to the book I mentioned earlier
from South America. Norberto Odebrecht specifically states this as
his business philosophy and has specific practices and structures
to support it.

His company has been growing for 50 years and spreads its philosophy
(by buying businesses) in many developing countries. So there's some
evidence that the idea travels.

>From another slant, however, we can easily call the idea into
question. From a cynical point of view, we might question the
motives and ethics of business leaders. From a more pragmatic and
generous point of view, the truth of this proposition will depend on
the laws, practices and social structures within which a business is
part of the ecology. In this view, to the extent that these are
aligned, profit will reflect service. To the extent that these are
out of balance or have special favorites, profit will not necessarily
reflect service to society but only some special part of it.

Business does have the ability and moral duty to determine its
ethics. Odebrecht refers to the moral investment of leaders,
managers and investors. However, it must also operate in the
environment that it finds itself in. The job of business *as
business* is not to change the laws and customs of the land but to
operate within them. This is not suggested as an opporunity to avoid
responsibility but to highlight the distinction between social
change as a major purpose and being engaged in business.

I personally have an assumption that the existing social ecology is
fully integrated and that change will be accomplished only by actions
which are from an ethical stand and which, at the same time, stand
for producing value.

As Deming said, "I didn't say it would be easy, I just said it would

Michael McMaster