According to Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Milton Friedman takes a shareholder approach to social responsibility. This approach views shareholders as the economic engine of the organization and the only group to which the firm must be socially responsible. As such, the goal of the firm is to maximize profits and return a portion of those profits to shareholders as a reward for the risk they took in investing in the firm. He advocates that the shareholders can then decide for themselves what social initiatives to take part in rather than having their appointed executive, whom they appointed for business reasons, decide for them.

Friedman argued that a company should have no “social responsibility” to the public or society because its only concern is to increase profits for itself and for its shareholders and that the shareholders in their private capacity are the ones with the social responsibility. He wrote about this concept in his book Capitalism and Freedom. In it he states that when companies concern themselves with the community rather than focusing on profits, it leads to totalitarianism.

In the book, Friedman writes: “There is one and only one social responsibility of business – to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud.”

The truth is that CSR-free businesses strive towards highest possible ROSF (return of shareholders’ funds). To do this they MUST focus on operational issues, ignore the implications and incidental costs of short-term returns over long terms position, and IF EMPOWERED, create win/lose relationships with trade partners (and even customers).

Friedman ignores two keys factors of the 8 P’s of Marketing – PEOPLE & POLITICS – the People who possess operational skills, don’t ‘get’ (or even understand) strategy. The politics of a Board of Management team that exercises OPERATIONAL strengths cannot embrace (or even grasp) STRATEGIC concepts, ideas, and approaches.

So Coles & WW have now commenced on their paths to self-destruction… two giants that DESERVE immortality, undermining their future. One is like a care with great power delivery to the rear wheels; just missing one of its front wheels… steering isn’t very good. The other is missing a rear wheel, it can only stay stable turning in a circular fashion on itself, in every widening and less efficient circles.

(If you doubt this at all, talk to Geoff Kennet, try and find a mission statement for Westfarmers or Coles, ask WW why they rejected a promotion to generate $400M p.a. in EBIT 8 years ago, because they were focused on ‘making’ Everyday rewards work, but now hang their hopes on squeezing more from suppliers, while taking more shelf space for private labels – the polices used by their abnormally high English executive team, who are applying the OPERATIONAL methods that have now damaged Sainsbury & Tesco.)

Both are building businesses for Aldi, and now Lidi… in the false race to short term ROSF while damning long term ROSF permanently. (See “Are WW & Coles sly Agents of Aldi”).

Mind you FMCG companies fell into the Corporate Arrogance trap decades ago (some are still there) and, had THEY had strategic insight and nous, they’d have control of the situation now, but alas… short term “Friedman” thinking undermined THEIR future, as well!

But CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), or the lack of it, is NOT the issue, but only a symptom.

The REAL issue is strategic thinking vs operational thinking…. Strategic Management as opposed to operational Management… Panning for winning the war, not raining to win a single fight in a stand-alone battle.

Adopting the Hierarchies of Marketing, and embracing the need to create and maintain balance of power between OPERATIONAL and STRATEGIC thinking – mindful of the shareholder vs, stakeholder debate – is the reality that escaped Milton Friedman.

[Readers are invited to download my free e-book – “The Four Faces of Marketing – The Missing Link Between Marketing & Management” at http://j.mp/ALLmktg ]