What Is This Book About?
In a word, it is about change.
And it is about choice, and vision. It is about the far-reaching decisions made by the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and the equally far-reaching decisions made by the individual consumer in the products he or she buys or does not buy, from groceries to household appliances to computer equipment to automobiles to homes. This book is about better products for a better world.
World Inc. is about the world of 21st-century capitalism: defining the tasks of tomorrow and redefining the very concept of leadership within that world. In that world, corporate strategy takes place as much in the company boardroom as in the family kitchen.
Facing ever-mounting pressures from global warming, disappearing ecosystems, dwindling resources, the widening divide between rich and poor, looming pandemics, and other problems that threaten literally everyone on the planet, humanity must understand that the question of who has made the most money by selling the most widgets in a given year, as a one-dimensional benchmark of "success," has now become practically irrelevant.
In the new global equity culture, conventional stock valuation models that fail to recognize the "hidden" value of a company are giving way to ratings tools that quantify such intangibles as superior management, ability to innovate, good governance, corporate transparency, and other factors that determine whether or not a company will be profitable not just now but in the future. It is no longer enough for companies to compete merely on price and quality — today, they must compete also in the arena of social responsibility, demonstrating their commitment to meet the real needs of society at large.
Hundreds of the largest corporations on Earth are now exploring a new social frontier. In order for them to survive and to prosper further, they need to develop and further refine the business art of innovation for social needs — they need to find a new and socially responsible way to fill the hole our depleting oil supply is leaving. We call this elaborate social art in business the S Frontier.
World Inc is far too complex a theory to be summed up in a single list. Nonetheless, the image at the right compresses three current realities:
- the Swiftness of new global market information
- the Severity of some of the leading social problems before us (such as climate change and the rising price of oil)
- the need for Social Response capitalists
This S Frontier is already here. We call it a "frontier" as it represents the progressing fringe of business thinking, much as the idea of the Western frontier shaped and furthered so much American thinking in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Every S has its extremes. In a similar way, every social movement has its ups and downs. Will you and your firm be on the upswing or the downward spiral of the S?
Many corporations and individuals still need to adjust their bearings to this new terrain, and as more and more people begin to understand and play by the changing rules of the game, folks will be able to discern when a company is headed for disaster. And not only will people be able to see disaster looming on the horizon for certain companies, they will even have a hand in calling for the end of those companies who don't meet the new requirements. In short, only the well-positioned firms of today will have wind behind their sails when the change takes.
Social Response product development is one way to bridge the wide gap between societal needs and the severe competition within global markets; a strategic way to encourage restraint while working toward a better near future. It is the central concept of this book.
And so this book is about companies like Hewlett-Packard and Toyota, which have already crossed the threshold into this new frontier. They make great products, and they are good corporate citizens — and, as such, they are the very epitome of social response capitalism.
Fifty-one of the world's top 100 economies are now corporations, and more than 40% of world trade now takes place within multinationals. As power moves into the hands of corporations, the world is looking to business instead of government to solve its problems. The corporations that can best address social issues by creating superior products will thrive and profit in this new world.
Consumers too have a vital role to play in this world. By making conscious decisions to invest in, and buy from, only those companies that make the best products — yet leave the smallest environmental footprint and demonstrate superior social performance — they are in effect rewarding those companies that make a difference not just in the marketplace, but in the world; while punishing those that fail to measure up to this ideal.
By linking environmental and social performance to product differentiation at major companies, this book illuminates an important source of competitive advantage and stock value in the 21st century.
What is this book about? In a phrase...