Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

This blog has moved to:

Get this widget!
Visit the Widget Gallery

If you'd like to get an update when we post new content, please click here to subscribe via RSS or to subscribe by e-mail.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Report from the National Conference on Media Reform

I've put up six different articles at the above link, covering the National Conference on Media Reform, held in St. Louis May 13-15, 2005.

2500 people attended this event, to hear from celebrity media personalities like Al Franken, Bill Moyers, Phil Donahue, Democracy Now's Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales, Jim Hightower, several members of Congress, and the two progressive FCC Commissioners. and also to hear from activists in the trenches of media reform, pursuing these twin flanks:

Opening up mainstream media to important voices that are getting shoved out of the discourse
Creating our own media

Spend some time with these articles. Print out the Twin Fires story--my main conference report--and read to absorb. Understanding these issues is key to effecting change in any marketplace of ideas.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More on the Newsweek Retraction Story

Turns out this story has actually been around at least 14 months, not just since August, and certainly not just since the Newsweek story.

Britain's Observer had the story, in gruesome detail, on March 14, 2004, following the release from Guantanamo of the so-called Tipton Three:

This is one of over 3500 hits for "tipton three" on Google--see for yourself at

I submit that the ethical position following the Holocaust and other extreme human rights abuses is that neither mental nor physical torture is acceptable.

We must say loudly that these acts of terrorism are not done in our name, and demand of our governments that they desist. There is ample international precedent for a populace being found complicit if they didn't actively oppose war crimes. From Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo Bay, we have seen our government act reprehensibly in our names. Well, I say, this is not in my name. One does not win democracy and freedom by violating them, killing them, and dragging their remains across objects sacred to those of other faiths. These actions do not represent me. they do not represent anything that is in the virtuous heart of the American people.

I've done two radio interviews this week on the real story here. If I can get one of them, I'll post a link to the audio in this space.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Newsweek's "Crime" Isn't the Real Story--It's the Return of Big Brother

The real scandal of the Newsweek incident isn't that the magazine issued a retraction. It's the incredible pressure brought to bear by the White House and the Pentagon to stifle dissent and cover up problems. Big problems. And it's the cowardice of American mainstream journalism in he face of that pressure.

Earlier this week, a query from a journalist crossed my desk:

"I'm looking for experts to comment on the issues surrounding this story, including, but not limited to: 1) The White House says the apology is not enough and Newsweek needs to do more to repair the damage. What is the magazine's obligation? 2) Is it any surprise, given recent reporting errors, that Americans don't trust journalists? 3) Newsweek is a highly respected news magazine. How could this happen? 4) What is happening in the journalism profession? Why are journalists and the field in general losing regard among the public?"

Here's what I wrote back:

" I think there's a deeper story, and a different set of questions. Newsweek's retraction was made under enormous pressure form the federal government. Is there actually truth to the allegations? Why does this government take such a consistent role as squelcher-of-the-press? (Two examples: the refusal to let TV cover returning coffins; the 1999 pressure brought to bear on St Martin's Press to recall and destroy a critical biography of Bush, later re-published by the courageous independent house Soft Skull) And why is the media so complicit in its own strangulation? Why was the Dan Rather scandal allowed to divert attention from the far greater scandal--well known long before the forged memos came to light--of Bush's AWOL problem?"... That the government was able to force the retraction of an apparently true story is cause for deep concern--and as someone who focuses on ethics, something I'm particularly alarmed about.

Since writing my response (which actually has resulted in two interviews so far), I did a little digging on the story. And I found some very interesting information.

1. Koran abuse is an old story. It was broken nine months ago by Britain's The Independent, and unlike Newsweek, that paper attributed its sources. Why did it take American journalists nine months to dig it out? The Independent's site only has the very beginning of the article:

but the whole thing is posted in several places, including

2. According to a story in Democracy Now today, not only was abuse of the Koran rampant at Guantanamo, as part of a general culture of trashing and profaning all things Muslim (forced shaving, defiling male prisoners with what they thought was menstrual blood, and other psychological abuse), but several Kuwaiti prisoners filed a lawsuit about this.

The whole sordid tale can be found at

It does not make me proud of the American government. Desecration of religion has been considered bad karma at least as far back as the Maccabees of ancient Palestine, 165 years before the birth of Christ, whose defeat of the defilers--who ordered pigs, considered unclean by religious Jews, slaughtered n the holy temple--created the Jewish holiday of Chanukah.

Is it any wonder Americans are hated when they do everything in their power to desecrate the entire culture of the lands they occupy?

And isn't it deeply ironic that White House spokesperson Scott McClellan said, "The report has had serious consequences. People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

I decry the loss of life. It is a human tragedy on the mound of vast human tragedies this war has sprung on us. But Scott--didn't it ever occur to you that far more lives were lost, and our country's reputation was far more damaged, by the "you're with us or against us" rhetoric, the refusal to wait for the United Nations, the blatantly false justifications for the war (anyone remember that this was supposedly about WMDs? Or remember President Bush joking about looking for them behind the White House furniture?) Engage in unethical and illegal behavior for years, and then blame the messenger?

Something is very wrong with this picture.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Vioxx, Ethics, and Sales

Here's yet another case of a company pushing product it knew wasn't safe. Now we learn that Merck actually stepped up its marketing of Vioxx once it was known that the product was linked with increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The company sent out a detailed sales training menu, even covering proper etiquette when dining with doctors. Vioxx became a best-seller, before the feds yanked it off the market.

Sometimes I wonder if the business world is populated by slow learners. They may create terrific sales projection PowerPoints and elegant profit spreadsheets, but they seem to lack any ability at all to find True North in their moral compasses.

And even if these talented and highly compensated MBAs don't have a moral compass, you'd think they'd have figured out by now that deceptive practices, and particularly the selling of something as safe when you know it's not, are bad for business.

We've already seen, after all (to name just three among dozens of examples)...
  • The plunge of revenue at Ford following revelations that they knew all along, even before they brought the car to market, that Explorers have an unfortunate tendency to flip over in hot weather
  • Enormous payouts from the tobacco companies, who also knew all along that they were pushing death
  • And a positive example: the rapid return of consumer confidence and profits when Johnson & Johnson stepped up to the plate and made it clear, following the Tylenol poisoning incident, that here was one company that actually did put its customers first. J&J took full responsibility for something that was not even its own fault, launched a massive recall campaign with huge publicity, and became one of the most trusted brands in America

  • I know they teach ethics in business school; maybe the message will only get through when people realize the ethical path is actually better for the bottom line (something which I discuss in some detail in my book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First ).

    Thursday, May 05, 2005

    Mystery of the Democrats' New Spine

    This author gives the credit for the Dems' sudden discovery of backbone (over Social Security, Terry Shiavo, and even some of Bush's particularly over-the-edge nominations) to independent media, and particularly liberal AM talk radio, e.g., Al Franken.

    Well, I listened to Air America, and read Alternet and Truthout and Greg Palast and a lot of others, all the way through GWB's first term (well, OK, Air America was a late arrival--but well before the election, during which the Dems continued to show a complete lack of spine). The stuff was out there all along.

    My feeling is that it may actually have more to do with a lot of the mainstream news bigwigs, including the New York Times and Washington Post, admitting that they were hornswaggled in the run-up to the war, and finally beginning to *function again as a proper press does*: questioning everything and investigating until the truth can be discovered.

    But I'd like to know your thoughts: Readers--why have the Democrats finally begun to turn into an actual opposition party? And why did they give GWB a free ride in his first term, despite his radical-right actions that are far out of the social mainstream? And why did the media so seldom question any of it until recently?

    And why, for heaven's sake, is there not a mass movement in the streets to protest both the stolen elections and the imposition of this very undemocratic government?