This past summer I interned at a public relations firm in New York named KYNE, which specializes in media outreach for corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies working in the healthcare space. I believe that Milton Friedman would not agree with the stakeholder managing practices I witnessed during my time there.
KYNE only agrees to contract work for those health causes that they deem worthy, not necessarily the ones that are the most profitable. To elaborate, the company runs media outreach for malaria vaccine campaigns in Africa, smoke-free initiatives in the United States, and heart disease awareness among the obese. None of these projects bring in the kind of revenue that KYNE would receive if Johnson & Johnson contracted them to run media outreach for a new major drug. And yet, all of these causes are ‘socially responsible.’ By taking a slight profit cut, KYNE is doing important work that actually has tangible results: it is estimated that KYNE and its partners will be close to eliminating malaria deaths in Africa in the upcoming year.
According to Milton, the social responsibility of business it to increase its profits. He believes that if a corporate executive were to act socially responsible in his own right, it would be “not in the interest of his employers.” My time at KYNE refutes this point. This company thrives on being socially responsible, turning down contract offers from larger firms to do the dirty work that actually can make a difference in someone’s life. KYNE answers only to its stakeholders, not any ominous employer or stockholder.