Arison Group proves Doing Good is Good Business

Each month in the “Monthly Moment” we will be highlighting a company that we feel is truly living the tenents of the oath.  I have to admit, I was nervous when I had this idea.  Would I be able to find enough companies?  Would I have to scour the news to double check they were actually not living the oath in other ways?  Would I only be able to highlight CSR programs or philanthropic endeavors? My fears have been put to rest.  I am writing this excerpt on the heels of what may very well be the most inspirational professional experience of my career—but at the very least one that has reminded me of just how relevant, timely, and needed the work we are doing is.

I had the pleasure of spending the week getting a first hand view of how the Arison group (and many of their subsidiaries) are truly changing the face of business.  They are proving, in a number of ways, that “doing good is good business.”  I have to say that it was a much needed and refreshing look at how values do, in fact, have a place in the business world.

We heard story after story of making the business case for doing good—be it for the environment, the community, the customer, or the employee.  I saw passion emanate from CEOs of a variety of business lines as they spoke about how they were skeptical at first, but now wouldn’t think of approaching business any other way.  Not because they have turned into tree hugging hippies or turned over a new leaf in terms of what they want to do with their lives, but because they have come to see how values based business is better business.  We saw hard nosed facts of raising revenues, cutting costs, and increased ROI in addition to some inspirational stories of winning bids and beating out the “big guys” or the “traditionally favored company” because of their transparent business practices, comprehensive stakeholder approach and innovative win-win view on sustainability.

Since many of us are born skeptics or semi-jaded professionals always looking for the angle or simply trained to always question the motivations—I feel it necessary to mention that we learned of many of these experiences in an organic, unplanned, unrehearsed manner while doing research on other areas of the businesses.

The Oath Project has teamed up with Arison to take a harder look at their approach and to create opportunities for others to learn from their refreshing take on global business centered on mutual gains, collaboration, shifting mindsets, and shared value.  I watched first hand as our faculty team went from slight (and reasonable) skepticism to true inspiration.  I watched them take frantic notes on the many scenarios ripe for case studies and class discussion—almost giddy with the realization that companies can embody what they preach, still do quite well financially, and in many cases cut through red tape and long seeded bureaucracy.

The week showed me that business is changing and that it is in fact possible to have fully integrated values that protect the right of future generations and respect the dignity of all people affected by an organization—and still turn a nice profit.  I listened as innovative and forward thinking leaders shared how their respective businesses were rewarded with big contract wins and large revenues because they refrained from corruption, unfair competition, and businesses practices harmful to society—when no one was looking, when no one would have known.  I witnessed top level management being compensated 50% on implementation of values and 50% on business results—and having it actually work.  But, perhaps what I was most impressed by was how managers from a variety of levels within the organizations understood that their behavior must set an example of integrity and judging from my interaction with their direct reports it seems to truly be eliciting trust and esteem from those they serve. 

Stay tuned for further details and research into how this investment group, and their bank, salt manufacturing company, water efficiency company, and infrastructure company are truly shifting the way business is done.  Not to mention the other incredible work being done through their more traditional philanthropic arms.  Thank you Arison for leading the way—with your personal and professional integrity in tact.