To do good or To do well? That is the question.

By Ed Nicholson

I’m preparing a presentation for a group of college students about how the Tyson Foods hunger relief program applies to corporate social responsibility.

Here are some questions I’ll be posing? 

  • Should a company’s social responsibilty engagement be driven first and foremost by the public’s expectation that companies give back to society?  Or should there be a business case for giving back; should it be because ultimately, there’s going to be a return on investment for those resources, whether time, talent, cash or in-kind resources?  
  •  Are these different drivers mutually exclusive? 
  • If it’s primarily to meet public expectations, is that obligation suspended if the company is not making a profit? 
  • If there’s to be a return on investment, what’s the responsibilty of the recipient organzation?
  • If there’s a social responsiblity to give back, what if the choice is between not taking care of other stakeholders (eliminating jobs, for example), and meeting that obligation?

I obviously have some opinions, but I’d love to hear from different perspectives on any of these questions. Please comment.


8 Replies to “To do good or To do well? That is the question.”

  1. Mike Buckley

    We support the Alameda County Food Bank and we are constantly amazed that government seems to think that food aid of that sort is supposed to be a private enterprise.  I am glad that ACFB and others like can provide some help, but what are we thinking of?  There are just a few basics of life. I don’t want to believe that our society is so socially Darwinian that we won’t tax ourselves even a little bit to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless .

  2. Matt Kennis

    A companies social responsibility should be driven by their personal desire to give back to the same society that helped make them succesful in the first place. However, there should be no obligation to do so as they should first worry about their own profitability. In specific, if a company is at a crossroad and must decide between meeting expectations for their own personal social responsibility and taking care of stakeholders, they should focus on what made them profitable in the first place. None the less, when a company is stable and profitable, they do have a responsibility to give back by giving money, time, or talent because they specifically  have a larger base and therefore will have a greater affect than an individual would. Further, despite the fact that a company may be driven my social responsibility, ultimately a company will be rewarded for their actions through either good press or better business, therefore these two factors are not mutually exclusive.

  3. Keith Stonehouse

         I also found this on and think it is GREAT!

    If I can help in anyway – please let me know and to respond or continue on from the other comments… I do feel that every company, corporation, etc has a responsibilty to give back to their community! To say that they have to is a bit harsh… but, c’mon you can write it all off so the Holidays fall at the perfect time of the year (depending on the fiscal year for some I guess)

  4. Alex Steed

    This is such a fantastic, fantastic effort. I’m glad I caught it on Twitter. I re-tweeted accordingly, and I forwarded it along to people I know.



  5. Jean Terranova

    When companies are profitable and the economy is flush, corporate giving is painless for stock-holders and good for the corporate image.  Corporate giving under those circumstances is common.  In the wake of scandals like AIG, the public does not expect corporative giving programs to continue when times are tough.  To maximize ROI, it is essential to thwart expectations and continue giving — in a big way — particularly in lean economic times.  (Arguably ROI should improve if you give less when times are good than when they are bad, but I don’t know enough about tax ramifications to make that case).

  6. Alexson Kane

    I don’t think businesses need to give back, but any smart business should build giving back into their plans. When a community lacks support for people who need it, businesses suffer. This is especially true when the economy is faltering. Sometimes the ROI can be seen on the bottomline and other times is is less tangible. If the comapny itself is experiencing losses, it’s first responsiblity is to its shareholders, but beyond that, a business should be a steward of the community it is a part of.

  7. dawn parker

    If you’re customers are doing well, you in return do well. Why wouldn’t you give back to the communities who support you? Whether it is time, talent, cash or in-kind resources, I believe that yes, corporations, especially ones who are global, need to be active and responsible in the communities it does business with. And not because of expectation, but because it is the right thing to do.

  8. Jack Pate


    I do not think that corporate responsibility should "go away" during times of economic duress. However, I do think it’s perfectly fine to adjust committments as long as the reasons for doing so are fairly transparent (don’t you love that word?). The people you are helping are also stakeholders, and, therefore, participants in your success both as a philanthropic entitiy and a business concern. When times are tough, they should buy more Tyson products to ensure that your philanthropic aims continue to flourish. Fair enough?

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