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Succeeding in Socially Responsible Business

The Wall Street Journal has an excellent interview with Adnan Durrani, a serial entrepreneur and investor in triple-bottom-line businesses or “those that define success by social as well as financial metrics.”

Said Durrani: “When I was at Columbia University, Milton Friedman came in as a guest lecturer. He used to say there is one and only one social responsibility of business: to increase profits. Leaving Wall Street, just after the 1987 crash, I had an epiphany and thought maybe there is a different way to make a living. My wife and I founded Vermont Pure Spring Water in 1991. We were the first bottled water company in this country to use recyclable packaging. We also wanted 100% American workers, and we established a foundation to give back to local communities, for example, supporting covered bridges and nature preserves in Vermont.”

But he notes you must be very clear on expectations: “This isn’t something they will necessarily get a return on in two or three years. Returns can be substantial but aren’t going to be short term.”