Exploring the Tension between ‘Doing Good’ & ‘Making Money’

May 10, 2017

This blog was written by TDi’s Pacific Investment Readiness Program Lead, Anna Moegerlein.

TDi exists to awaken the possibility of doing good and making money; this deeply motivates us and shapes how we work with businesses and not-for-profits. However until recently, I didn’t realise how difficult this can be, and how deep my own dualism often runs.

Socrates, Plato and later Descartes held that the immaterial mind and the material body are two completely different types of substance. For nearly 2,500 years this dualist thinking, deeply rooted in Greek philosophy, has more often led us to compartmentalise and separate things, rather than acknowledging integration and interdependence.

We can see this today in the way our education system is structured, with the liberal arts separate from the sciences and commerce; or in how see ourselves as separate from the natural environment, as if we exist independently from it; and we see it in how we separate our profit-making from ‘doing good’ in business.

The thing is, TDi’s work in the South Pacific is teaching me much more about integrated business than I ever could have discovered in my own culture. Last month, we went to Samoa to set social outcome metrics for an impact investment. We had been referring to our trip as a ‘social measurement trip’. But the trip turned out to be much more than just agreeing on social indicators. Our interviews with farmers revealed a lot more about the health of the business and our investment than just expected social returns. It opened up a whole world of risk and opportunity. Our conversations over two days were the best due diligence we could have done on the business.

For the last 5+ years, TDi has been focused on building blended value business models; businesses that – by design – are scalable and do more good as you scale them. However, we have still been unhelpfully falling in the trap of associating the ‘social’ part of our work primarily with impact measurement. We are now trying to change our language and practice to something more integrated. We are looking at risk and opportunity, which is driven by both financial and social factors. We are trying to ensure the social analysis is integrated with the business and financial analysis, rather than sitting as the final tab on the spreadsheet.

While not every business in the South Pacific is committed to supporting community outcomes, Polynesian and Melanesian culture often supports the idea of the two going hand in hand – with the ‘social’ being embedded in the business from the outset. I recently asked a Samoan colleague if he thought a local business owner took social impact seriously. He found it an odd question and answered that since the business owner is Polynesian himself, he would of course be committed to community development.

I wonder if there is a word with a different etymology to the English word ‘business’ (which has its roots in busyness and anxiety). I haven’t found it yet, but it seems we need a better word to describe the possibility of integration, of doing ‘do good and make money’. If you know of one I’d love to hear it.

Spread the love

Acknowledging Country: A new way to connect mindfully with an important practice

We recently engaged YARN Australia for a series of team workshops on storytelling, focussed on creating relationships and intentional connections between First Nations Australians and settlers. We invite you into our world as we share a practice from these workshops, and gratefully acknowledge the land we call home.

Kylie-Lee Bradford: Forging New Paths for First Nations Business

We recently welcomed Kylie to the TDi team. Kylie brings a wealth of experience in entrepreneurship as well as rich heritage and story from her Kakadu roots. Kylie is passionate about opening up opportunities for First Nations business to support and give back to...

Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Finance

by Isaac Jeffries, Senior Consultant     I recently had coffee with a university student, who is passionate about social impact but unsure about how to get a job in the industry. She’s studying maths and economics, and surprised me with this pearler of a...

Why we’ve switched to Bank Australia

  by Anthea Smits, CEO     There's been excitement around TDi this month – we are now officially a customer with Bank Australia! Why the change? When I first started to think about impact investing many years ago, a dear friend and mentor challenged me to...

9 Mindsets of my Favourite Difference Makers

TDi Senior Consultant Isaac Jeffries shares the philosophies and habits that are the hallmarks of his favourite difference-makers.

This is a concrete list of practices and mindsets for working in community, and maintaining connection to people without burning out or burning others.

Bilum: The Power of Story to Drive Inclusive Economic Growth

by Annie Smits, TDi CEO   In May this year we attended the first official public screening of The Bilum Story, hosted by the AUS-PNG Network at The Lowy Institute in Sydney. Before the screening, I introduced the film to a crowded room, by bringing to the fore a...

Why We Need More Coaches and Fewer ‘Experts’ in International Development

 By Kate Wilson, TDi Associate   An intuitive mindset coach and mentor, Kate's insight and expertise is so valuable to our team – we hope it will be for you too. This post was originally published on Kate's website, Resources Reimagined and explores the vital...

Reconciliation Week 2022: Wrestling with our role in the Indigenous Business Sector

Anna Moegerlein, Deputy CEO, TDi In light of National Reconciliation Week, TDi’s Deputy CEO Anna shares some of the unfolding story around our work in the Indigenous Business sector: What are the challenges we are wrestling with as an organisation, what are our...

Introducing: Accelerate with IBA 2022 Cohort

Our 'Accelerate with IBA' Showcase on April 7 was a great success. It's been an incredible six-month journey as we partnered with Indigenous Business Australia once again to equip a new cohort of business owners to grow, learn new skills, and explore their social...

Meeting Uncertainty and Crisis with Curiosity

Anthea Smits, TDi CEO   I’m going to be honest; I had a rough start to 2022.   We endured a bout of coronavirus in January, followed by a series of personal crises. Each of these would have been manageable on their own, but one after the other, at a time when...