C’est, en résumé, ce qu’explique Daniel Altman dans ce papier pour Foreign Policy. Selon lui, il faut arrêter de raconter que les entreprises privées ne pensent qu’au court terme et surtout, surtout, il ne faut pas les détourner de leur objectif louable qui est de faire du profit. C’est justement ainsi qu’elles peuvent être sociales.
In fact, strictly for-profit companies can be among the best social investors because they apply the same discipline to these investments that they would to other parts of their core business. Energy and mining companies, for example, have some of the longest time horizons in the private sector, and they tend to be big social investors as well. Some European companies have actually stopped issuing quarterly reports to shift the attention of analysts to the long term. And because they are still targeting a single bottom line, profit, there’s no loss of clarity about their mission or erosion of transparency for shareholders.
This is the essential problem with social enterprises. They may have admirable goals, but investors cannot always be sure of what they’re getting; the company’s mission depends on a concept articulated by a founder or a statement that’s open to interpretation, rather than the simple goal of profit. Moreover, when the management or strategy of a social enterprise changes, so might the company’s objectives. The Indian microfinance institution SKS, for example, began as a nonprofit but ended up selling shares on the stock market. At that point, was it purely for-profit or not? Could investors ever really know its goals? These kinds of issues can cause enormous and costly frictions in financial markets.