Benevolence in Business….What For?

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A conference organized by the economic journal Les Echos in Paris explored how benevolence can serve business performance. Is the selflessness implied by the idea of benevolence compatible with the so-called selfishness of profit-seeking businesses? We assert that benevolence is a powerful condition for a sustainably profitable business – and that has never been more evident than now, when the entire business world has been thrown into crisis.

What does benevolence in business look like?

The agency Change has defined a benevolence index for brands, which looks at three simple aspects and correlated to brand preference:

  • Is this brand useful to me?
  • Does the company behind the brand conduct its business in a responsible manner?
  • Does the brand understand me?

Benevolence can also take the form of advising customers against a short-term decision that would solely benefit the company. Examples include not renewing an insurance contract which does not benefit a customer, or choosing to reimburse customers generously after a claim in order to not only ease their difficulties but also build long-term loyalty.

What does it take for a company to conduct its business with benevolence?

Benevolence is sustainable when it aligns the interest of the customers and all stakeholders with the interests of the company. The current global crisis has many more companies looking at ways they can shift their previously narrow focus on shareholders to considering all stakeholders of the organization. This is easier said than done. We know that while many people say that they are ready to pay more to purchase a product that is manufactured or elaborated in a responsible manner, their actual purchasing behavior does not match this declaration. Aligning the needs and interests of all stakeholders requires a new perspective on time and the need to have present actions guided by a strong commitment, the benefit of which may only materialize in the future.  Given that a company’s responsibility is to ensure its own sustainability, it takes courage to bet on the longer-term.

Benevolence is a declaration, a stand that leads people in an organization to act for the good of all stakeholders, without sacrificing anyone. If we take this idea out of the realm of morality or ethics, we may soon realize that it gives us direct access to running our businesses with integrity (noun. The quality of being whole and complete. Cambridge English Dictionary).

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