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Good Business

Good Business, which is part behind-the-scenes look at crafting social and health policy and impact, part inspirational guide, proves that you can do well (creating economic and financial success for yourself and your company or organization) by doing good (helping solve the world’s and society’s major problems).

About Anchor

Bill was well on his way to becoming a leader in the hypercompetitive business world when he realized he wanted more – which he described as social relevance. He knew that his marketing skills made companies financially successful, but what good did that do for the world? That question sent him on a career path that involved taking the marketing and communication tactics long used by big businesses and applying them to social change. He found that this strategy was not only good for the world but also for business. Doing good used to be secondary to making money, but now it is increasingly what can make organizations successful in the first place.

In Good Business, Bill begins with his early career progress in Mad Men–era marketing, which left him feeling unfulfilled. He describes the process of changing his career trajectory: how he helped reposition the Peace Corps; built Porter Novelli, a global PR agency for social impact; fought the Tobacco Wars; and became CEO of AARP, the largest nonprofit in America. Drawing practical lessons and principles from play-by-play stories of his experiences in large and small organizations, Bill deploys his characteristic wit to stress the importance of building and maintaining connections with people―and engaging them in the cause.

Readers will come away with the message that anyone who wants to make a positive impact on the world can do it, Bill shows how:

To bake social impact into a company’s mission

To lead the way in changing organizational culture

To apply your own passion and values in the job, wherever you are

Doing well by doing good creates value for all stakeholders

To bring business, civil society and government together to create lasting change

Excerpts from Good Business


“Today’s business leaders are tapping into the power of purpose. They’re building social and environmental strategies into their core businesses to improve financial performance, gain a competitive edge, attract and keep talent, and achieve economic success for their shareholders as well as success for other stakeholders and for society. When they can do that, they’re doing well by doing good, and it’s their sweet spot.”


“In the phrase ‘doing well by doing good, the word ‘by’ is important. It means that a company can improve its bottom line – shareholder value – as a consequence of creating positive results for other stakeholders as well as for society. So there’s money in all this. It’s not just a moral imperative, not just the right thing to do, although many think that’s justification enough. But businesses are supposed to perform financially. In doing well by doing good, we have an important pathway to business success.”

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“Business students…believe in free enterprise and the rewards of capitalism…But today’s students also want to know the business case for sustainability, and they are interested in socially beneficial business practices. They care about business and public policy and society. When we started our social purpose program at Georgetown nearly a decade ago, one of our students, in learning about the business of doing well by doing good, remarked, ‘Especially with issues like the climate, there’s a huge business opportunity there, and there’s going to be a huge market for solving it. Earlier, we were relegated to charity or do-gooder-ism but now we know it can also make you money.’”

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“Companies may strive for people, planet and profit…but the reality doesn’t always line up. They can do good and do harm, sometimes simultaneously. And so, of course, can religious organizations, governments, nonprofits and individuals. As employees, citizens, and voters, it’s our role to keep score and to keep principles at the forefront…to make things better, we need to talk and fight, whether we’re inside the organization or outside banging on the door.”

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“Nancy Pelosi was so furious about the Medicare bill that she called me the worst name she could think of ‘Republican’. We later made up, I think. Mitch McConnell, on the other hand, called me a ‘Democrat’…Jim DeMint (R-SC) called Chris Hansen and me ‘communists’ during a discussion about Social Security. Republican, Democrat, communist, they are badges of honor….John McCain, on the other hand, called me a ‘great American,’ but he was known to flatter lots of people that way. It was John McCain who was the great American.”


"Back in my brand management days at Unilever, the company’s annual report was a worldwide story of products and profit that contained hardly a word about sustainability or social impact and no mention of the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit). The business model has changed a lot since then. In Fortune magazine’s issue on 50 “Change the World” companies a few years ago, editor-in-chief Clifton Leaf wrote that Paul Polman, the now former CEO of Unilever, said his company was driving forward successfully largely because of its sustainable living plan.”

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