Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Why The Right Thing To Do Is A Business Case For Good

Chapter 9: Paint Your Environment Part 3

In 1994 Massachusetts had a statewide referendum that would have required companies to reduce the amount of product packaging. I lived in Boston and there was a raging debate between the environmentalists and the business community.  One side said that excess packaging is bad for the environment and costly to the public. The other side claimed that the costs of packaging reduction would be astronomical and cost jobs.  The measure was defeated 65% to 35%.

Fast forward to today – many companies cannot reduce their packaging quickly enough. The difference is the business case. Less packaging brings lower costs, a green brand, and in some cases more ease of use.  If you can deliver a better product at a lower cost, why wouldn’t the company do it?

Corporations are in business to make money, and it is very hard to argue that a company should make less money for any reason. It is far more effective to make a Business Case for Good.

If your company must decide between doing the right thing (A), or doing the wrong but less expensive thing (B), the worst thing you can do is to argue for “A” based on ethics. Instead, use your creativity to create a business case. For example, argue that A will differentiate your product in the market, and allow the company to command a higher price.  Or, argue that “B” will have higher support costs, or bring a legal risk.

Whatever you do, don’t EVER mention an ethical justification for A, not even as a fourth bullet point.  I’ve used a Business Case For Good on several occasions, and invariably someone else said “of course we should do A.  It’s the right thing to do.”  This is a test. If you agree, someone on the other side will use your agreement to bring the argument back to ethics, and you will lose.  Instead, be coldhearted, and say “That should not be a factor in the decision -we need to do what is best for the company.”

You want this to become a contest of who has the best numbers, and in the next post, I’ll show you how to properly buffer a revenue forecast.  If you make up better numbers than the other side, your company will start doing the right thing in spite of themselves.

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