THE BLOG
09/17/2014 01:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2014

Every Company Can and Should Replicate CVS' Social Good

"The ultimate most holy form of theory is action." -- Nikos Kazantzakis

When CVS Caremark announced earlier this year that it was banning tobacco sales because tobacco no longer tied to its primary purpose of health care, it received
over-the-top accolades from customers, vendors, politicians and communities. CVS' gesture and the resulting PR demonstrated that goodness sells. This is so contrary to the standard business paradigm: profits trump purpose. But CVS has established a new paradigm, that purpose and profits must at least go hand in hand.

Some business leaders preceded the CVS moment. Richard Smucker, CEO of The J.M. Smucker Company, the producer of iconic food brands such as Smucker's jams and Jif peanut butter, has for years been speaking openly about "Purpose Before Profits." His contention is that, because Smucker's business emphasizes purpose, such as taking care of its employees, communities and customers, it always achieves the profit. Smucker's performance as well as its stock price bear this out.

Bill Conway and Chuck Fowler, leaders in the sustainability movement, have run a sand mining company that, as they put it, "disturbs the earth." Yet their Fairmount Santrol corporate mantra "Do Good. Do Well." has inspired their almost one thousand employees to work across their entire footprint to lessen the environmental impact of mining and develop community projects that "do good." The result is that communities that would otherwise shun mining companies, instead, welcome their company.

One of Fairmount's influencers is David Cooperrider, founder of the Appreciative Inquiry organizational development methodology, and now the Fairmount Professor of Business at Case Western Reserve University. Dr. Cooperrider's major work has focused on creating a compelling case for "business as an agent for world benefit." His contention is that business, which intersects families, education, communities and workplace, is an appropriate venue for sparking social good. An international church leader once recognized this phenomenon by saying that, "CEOs are our modern-day bishops!"

Exactly what social good businesses develop was the subject recently at the Landmark Ventures' Social Innovation Conference at J.P. Morgan Chase headquarters and the United Nations. This annual conference of business social innovators, combined with non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs, displays best practices of how companies actually do good.

Eileen Howard Boone, CVS' head of corporate social responsibility spoke about how CVS reached its milestone decision, wrapped around who they are and what they stand for. Steven Brown, head of Greyston Bakery, spoke about how a major bakery was founded based on helping ex-convicts start over again. Actress Jessica Alba spoke about how she started her company, The Honest Company, around the concept of providing natural baby products to mothers in the interest of doing social good. And Hamdi Ulukaya, Founder and CEO of Chobani, spoke about how the values of health and giving back were ingrained from the beginning in this yogurt giant that is just a few years out of its startup phase. Chobani has revitalized their entire community in upstate New York. What has taken other companies decades to give back was ingrained in Chobani from the beginning.

What is so inspiring about these companies is that they all were incorporating social good not just as mission but as a core element of their products and essence, as well.

There are these types of innovative leaders and there are the rest of companies that use social good as PR tools, water-cooler motivators or obligatory community after-thoughts. The social do-gooders, however, emphasized that their products needed to incorporate some element of social good into its design, marketing or community outreach. It was impressive to see that the actual sales of products can be holistically linked to doing good.

Many companies do good these days through their corporate philanthropy or employee engagement. But what distinguishes these amazing companies is the integration of their products and purpose. Their approach is not just occasional goodness but a clear focus on goodness as a practical and immediate business outcome.

The visionary corporate leaders mentioned earlier have made doing good and being good easy by aligning core values with their products. So simply by selling their products, they are able to put their values-in-action. This action empowers their employees, inspires their customers and endears their communities. It's a win-win-win!

Another example is Duck Tape, made by Shurtech Brands, which has intentionally instilled family and employee fun into their "Duck Tape" products. They host duct tape prom outfit competitions all over the world. The unbelievable creations that teenagers develop create wholesome fun for the teens and their schools and create an atmosphere of fun and smiles among Shurtech's employees. Again, win-win-win!

We encourage more companies to consider making "doing good" both an input and an output of their missions, values, products, and employees. Every company can have its CVS moment. We hope that more corporate leaders emphasize good along with growth and purpose along side of profits. With all the political and social turmoil around the world, businesses now have a unique opportunity to offer a meaningful foil that instills new hope into a broken world.

If you're a corporate leader, wondering why you should distract your team "off plan" by incorporating values and actions that do good, we'd like to add one more point to make our case: Courage + Values Sells.

Muszynski is Founder of Purple America, a national initiative of Values-in-Action Foundation to re-focus the American conversation to a civil, productive and respectful dialogue around our shared values. To see America's shared values and get involved, go to www.PurpleAmerica.us