4. My “passion project”

DH 1850
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The Business Detox Project recognizes that the free-market economy and its associated corporate business structure is one of humanity’s greatest creations and arguably a key element and enabler of a dynamic democracy. Business is the engine behind job creation, product and service innovation, and prosperity for people, organizations, and nations around the globe. While business is unquestionably a remarkable and efficient machine it also has a dark side: many of its outputs and practices are inherently toxic to people, the environment and society at large.

The Business Detox Project believes the machinery of business is in urgent need of redesign. Examples of “toxic” behaviour are easy to find in today’s business world: from environmental abuse and climate change; to massive restructurings impacting the immediate financial stability of tens of thousands of workers; to the exploitation of labor practices in third world countries through cost-reduction seeking global supply chains.

One reason for this toxicity is the fact that our “modern” businesses are built on outmoded operating practices and belief systems that have not changed significantly since the industrial revolution began in the early 1800’s. These practices, along with public policy and regulatory bodies that establish the playing field for businesses to operate in, are in many ways out-of-step with societal need and – due to massive pricing externalities – are rarely engineered to take into consideration the true cost for producing and distributing a product. The “business of business” must be re-engineered to operate more effectively and in a way that works to minimize the use of toxic practices and the rise of toxic outputs.

(For more background and specifics on this, read The Detox Prism: Exploring Organizational Failures and Design Responses)

However, quite different from the rapidly evolving Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) themes, the Detox Project take the view that it is not the responsibility of firms to be “socially responsible” in some difficult-to-quantify way but instead to focus on what they do best – to maximize their returns to their shareholders, while operating in a way consistent with the laws of the land. The key, then, is to redesign the underlying mechanics of the modern business such that maximizing shareholder returns more exactly aligns with our societal expectations.

This is the collaborative research and outreach focus of the Business Detox Project.

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