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10 Commandments for Business Leaders

Net Impact's annual conference recently concluded at University of Michigan's Ross School of Business.

For many, Net Impact has become the biggest conference of the year, offering common ground for thousands of business school students, academia and professionals to connect on issues like job searching, career transitioning, development as well as advice on how to break into a fields like corporate social responsibility and sustainability, still considered niche by most. And this year's conference was aptly titled: 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade.

True to its word, the conference packed in three days of rigorous discussions, keynotes and workshops, all aimed at brainstorming ideas on leadership and sustainable economic development with a core message: Profits with passion, or in PepsiCo terminology, 'Performance with Purpose.' The sheer energy was enough to generate thousands of solutions while building incredibly smart and self-aware business leaders.

What emerged was a clear message for business leaders and management across the country: Status quo isn't going to work, also the subject of a panel on the future of the MBA. But, it was perhaps best presented by Thomas Neil Gladwin through what he called his "Ten Commandments for Business."

Replete with sarcasm and enunciated ridicule for Wall Street, Gladwin's commandments serve less as advice to follow and more as an indictment of the current state of business. In delivering them, he perhaps best captured the sentiments of the crowd—a mix of MBA students, professionals and academia focused on corporate social responsibility and the return to a sustainable economy.

Gladwin, who is the professor of sustainable enterprise and strategy at Ross School of Business, and the director of University of Michigan's Erb Institute, wasted no time in making his stance clear: The marketplace and current business leaders don’t have the foresight to accept issues like climate change and economic imbalance, but they are real and here to stay. As he put it, "I am most known for an article [that talks about these realities as they stand] which will make you want to slit your wrists."

Without further ado then, here are his Ten Commandments:

  1. Thou shall aim for sales growth maximization.
  2. Thou shall build on cost externalization.
  3. Thou will use tax avoidance to increase profit.
  4. Thou shall seize control of the government. (According to Gladwin, "There are 3,000 lobbyists in Washington D.C., just for the finance industry. Pharmaceuticals have about 900.")
  5. Thou shall concentrate control of the media. ("In 1983, 50 companies controlled all the media. That figure stood at five in 2004.")
  6. Thou shall create wants to serve your business.
  7. Thou will innovate only for the rich.
  8. Thou shall let finance take over the world. ("We don’t need as many bankers as we have today.")
  9. Capitalism shall concentrate thy wealth.
  10. Thou shall overshoot limits and treat the earth as if it was in liquidation.

And there endeth 2020: Vision for a Sustainable Decade.

For more coverage from Net Impact 2010, visit Vault's CSR Blog: In Good Company.

Aman Singh is the Corporate Responsibility Editor at Vault.com and the author of Vault's CSR blog: In Good Company. She is a New York University alum and previously wrote for The Wall Street Journal. Her area of work includes corporate social responsibility, diversity practices and sustainability, and how they translate into recruitment and strategic development at companies. Connect with her on Twitter @VaultCSR.

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