The Idea That’s Killing Mission-Driven Companies

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If profit isn’t your only goal, congratulations. You’re now at odds with neoliberalism, the economic consensus of the last three decades.

Margaret Thatcher said of neoliberalism, “There is no alternative.” Photo: BBC/CC

A mission-driven company names a goal and says, “This is why we’re here.” Sure, profit is great, and profit powers a mission, but it’s not the point.

This simple principle puts the whole mission-driven movement on a potential collision course with the most deeply held and widely shared assumptions that have driven the global economy for the last quarter century. Today, neoliberalism — the school of economic thought that promotes market competition and small government — is facing challenges on multiple fronts: Its gospel of austerity hasn’t restored the economies that bought into it. Even the International Monetary Fund’s own researchers are questioning its premises. Popular movements on both right and left are threatening to blow up long-negotiated free-trade pacts. And a lot of the rest of us are hoping to get something more fulfilling out of our work than an “I made more money than you” certificate.

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