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Tania Fiero

— Mention corporate America in some circles, and the first word you’ll hear is “greedy.” Look to the media, and you’ll see no shortage of stereotyping, either. And this holiday season you’ll again watch Ebenezer Scrooge bully his employee Bob Cratchit.

Honestly, I’m sick of it. Corporations are not greedy. Quite simply, they’re groups of people who are acting as one entity for legal and tax purposes. For-profit corporations earn money for their shareholders, while nonprofits provide services to society.

Both types of corporations must make budgetary decisions about how they’ll balance their revenues, expenses, and investments. Of course, when executives make unethical decisions, we get scandals like Enron, Wells Fargo, and AIG. I’m not defending leaders’ bad behavior, but it’s grossly reductionist to argue that even those corporations are “greedy.” Temporarily led by dishonest executives, maybe.

Here’s the bottom line: If corporations can’t turn a profit, they cease to exist. And when they do make a profit, they can do great things for their workers and communities.

Truth of Corporate Ethics

For every greedy executive, there are thousands of corporations making the world a better place. They pull communities out of poverty, give workers growth opportunities, respect the planet, and pay their fair share of taxes to support local services and infrastructure.

At most corporations, meeting this triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit is an expectation. But even corporations that aren’t altruistic simply for the sake of doing good recognize that it’s good for business.

In particular, unethical employers have little hope of wooing top talent. According to a study by Cone Communications, 88 percent of millennials find jobs fulfilling when they have opportunities to contribute to the social and environmental bottom lines.

Competition for the best workers is fierce. With the unemployment rate at a record low of 4.1 percent, employees can afford to work where they want and how they want. It’s one of the big drivers behind the gig economy’s growth, which, by the way, is no more evil than the rest of the labor economy.

To compete, today’s HR teams have to develop employee perks and branding that woo socially conscious candidates.

Show Workers Your Values

Companies use the following tools to cultivate the kind of reputation that brings talented people to their door:

Better salaries: Money provides stability and opportunity. If you can’t blame workers for wanting to earn more money, then why would you do so for executives? Paying better salaries brings in better talent, and the best companies know that.

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