03/28/2008 02:46 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

How Business Can Save The World

When Milton Friedman famously stated that "the social responsibility of business is to increase profits," he furnished ammunition to both free market evangelists and their critics. Where libertarians see profit as the basis of stability and opportunity, others see only greed and rapine. The relationship between the bottom line and the betterment of society is a fraught one, and politicians, social critics, and tycoons have long battled over where the proper nexus of ethics, philanthropy, and profitability lies.

All have tended to agree, however, that the effects of business are primarily driven by economics: nations that are trading partners are unlikely to risk wealth by waging war on one another; rising salaries offer workers welfare and security; increased profits lead to flourishing philanthropy.

But new research suggests that business can have an important -- and positive -- cultural impact as well. Companies that empower their employees to cut costs in the workplace not only improve their bottom lines, but also may foster civic engagement and contribute to peace in the societies where they operate, according to research published in the November 2007 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

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