Friday, February 22, 2008

Socially Responsible Business Plan Competition

I just served as a judge for the William James Foundation's 2007-08 Socially Responsible Business Plan Competition. The Executive Director, Ian Fisk, is an old friend of mine. It's a lot of fun, because I get to read about very cool change-the-world-and-make-money new companies. Sometimes the plans are a little too starry-eyed, and I am reminded of my own rather underdeveloped (and hence unsuccessful) attempts to start new businesses. But a lot of them are really, really interesting, and very inspiring. It always takes guts to start a new business, but to do that and try to do it in a way that is socially responsible takes a special talent.

This isn't my first encounter with a group dedicated to spreading the idea that is is possible to run a business in a way that is socially responsible. Way back in the early '90's, just as I was getting to Washington (literally on the first day I got there), a group called Businesses for Social Responsibility launched. Back then it was companies with a reputation for being very socially responsible, like Body Shop or Ben and Jerry's. Good companies, but not the biggest. Sort of hippie-ish. Today Ford and GE are members. They obviously don't have the most socially responsible histories, but hey, at least they're showing up today.

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