Most of us who grew up in a capitalist society were taught at a young age that the only metric necessary to measure success is profit. As such, maximizing profits and shareholder revenue are believed to be the sole purpose of business. Yet in the last 30 years or so a growing number of companies are thwarting this notion. More and more businesses are abandoning a profit-only focused plan in order to branch out and become conscious capitalists.
The main purpose of the documentary Not Business as Usual is to show the creation and continued growth of socially responsibly companies. Director Lawrence Le Lam’s film starts by giving a quick history of capitalism and chronicling its effects on North America. The film discusses how social pressure in the 70’s and 80’s first nudged some companies towards being more socially aware. Rather than measuring success by profit, companies began to value social goals, environmental impact and even their employee happiness. It was these sets of beliefs that turned profit-hungry corporations into Benefit Corporations, or B Corps.
Benefit Corporations are able to pursue social goals without the fear of being sued by their shareholders. Embedded in their shareholders’ agreement is a promise the corporation will not forsake society in favor of making profit. Many of the companies in this film are in fact B Corps. They take turns describing why they feel a draw towards helping others and how their companies attempt to help. It is obvious these business owners feel a responsibility towards helping better society.
What the film is really lacking is that it doesn’t show any of the problems faced by B Corps. It would be interesting to see how much more difficult it is for them to deal with other businesses whose only concern is profit. As a viewer I was curious as to the negative effects that becoming a B Corp can have on your company. The film in many respects feels like an advertisement for spreading awareness about socially responsible companies.
Overall the film does a good job of showing why and how companies become B Corps. Le Lam demonstrates to the viewer that becoming socially conscientious is not just important as small business leaders and employees, but as people. As was mentioned in the film, we do have a responsibility to leave the world a better place and a socially conscious business is a great way to help achieve that goal.
This review was done by AR staff member Curtis and originally appeared on this site.