Kenman Wong and Scott Rae offer three “legitimate perspectives (not mutually exclusive) on profit as one objective of business that would fit well under the auspices of a Christian vision for business” in Business for the Common Good.
One is profit as a means of “providing financial resources necessary to sustain the other service objectives of the organization.” Another is profit “as a byproduct or reward.” The third — and the most intriguing — is profit “as a direct means of service to the owners or shareholders.”
What do they mean?
Many shareholders “invest for noble purpose, such as retirement or sending their children to college.” Some take the profit and donate it to charity. Some institutions “invest money…to maximize the dollars available for their core service missions.” In other words, by helping shareholders maximize profit, the enterprise allows them to better achieve their other good and noble objectives — e.g., taking care of their loved ones, providing education, creating new products and providing new services.
By moving beyond treating “profit” solely as an abstract concept and spelling out what such profit enables people to do, Wong and Rae provide a healthy corrective to the sometimes-held view that treats non-profit enterprises as more noble than for-profit enterprises.