Business as a Force For Good

Ty Fujimura
5 min readMar 1, 2023


When I first founded Cantilever in 2011, I believed that the main duty of a business was to make a profit. Of course, I understood that businesses must act ethically, and within the rules that society creates to govern them. I believed that it’s a good thing for businesses to serve the public interest, but thought that the burden of making this happen lies with government, not those businesses themselves. This neat separation of concerns felt elegant, simple, and manageable.

When corporations did bad things to humans or the environment, I didn’t judge until I first looked to see if regulators had successfully banned the practices they used. I thought the obligation of the corporation was to fulfill the law, not better the world. I was confused by brands like Whole Foods and Tom’s Shoes, which straddle the line between the non-profit and for-profit spaces. Purpose-driven brands seemed to me like a gimmick.

As I got more and more real-world experience running a business, I found things to be much more complicated. It started with my team. Once we had employees, we felt an undeniable moral obligation to do right by them. It was obvious that the company’s imperative was not just to fulfill the legal language of our employee’s contracts, but to go further: To honor their dignity, to bring them into community, and to help them achieve their dreams.

Ty Fujimura and JT Fridsma smiling in an office setting
Me with my colleague JT during a visit to Chattanooga

Over time it has become clear that every decision we make at Cantilever has a deeper moral dimension, beyond just what the rules say. The clients we choose to target, the spaces where we recruit, the vendors and software we use… like with an individual, our existence in the world has an inevitable ethical impact.

Corporations can make the world a little better, or a lot worse. We can create happiness or promote suffering. Each human being has a small but non-zero effect on the whole world, and so does each company. In most countries, corporations are legally treated like people, and I believe they have the moral and ethical obligations of people as well — not just to meet the letter of the law, but to uplift the spirit of humanity.

Today I believe that profit is just one goal of many. I believe all businesses exist to serve their people, their community, and the world.

This isn’t to say that every corporation needs to operate like Tom’s. Most businesses focus primarily on creating a good product for an affordable price. This alone can be a noble and important purpose. Many businesses recognize their obligation to be a force for good, and support their people, communities, nations, and the world.

I believe that most companies genuinely want to better the world in some way. Boeing’s mission statement is to “connect, protect, explore, and inspire the world”. I disagree with the methods Boeing uses to do that, but who would deny that this is a worthy aim? Small businesses are often just trying to eke out an existence, but I see them constantly trying to better the world as well. After shutting down at the start of the COVID pandemic, my friend Jason Hairston of The Nugget Spot donated more than 800 pounds of chicken nuggets to the homeless in New York City.

A foodservice rack filled with chicken nuggets

Prominent purpose-driven brands like Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s have helped inspire the business community to think this way. I believe that most businesses are in fact purpose-driven, they may just not understand it yet. Cantilever was like this. Last year at our company retreat, my team told me that they felt most motivated when they knew their work was improving the world in some way. We were already doing this, but we’ve now made it official, and embarked on our own journey to be a purpose-driven corporation.

The Cantilever team sitting outside on a sunny day in new york city

Discovering and clarifying your purpose can be a game-changer:

  • Purpose finds the right staff. People want work that pays the bills but also fulfills their souls. Younger workers especially crave work with meaning. Deloitte recently found that 44% of Millennial workers and 49% of Gen Z workers made decisions about jobs based on their personal ethics, and as more companies adapt to this new landscape, undoubtedly those numbers will continue to increase. By adopting a clear purpose not only do firms stand out, they stand out to the exact set of people most likely to be successful at their firm—those with intrinsic motivation for the cause.
  • Purpose finds the right customers. When companies are overt about wanting to change the world in some way, they will lose business. Being associated with a political stance or social movement will turn off buyers on the other side. But the signal it sends to those who share those values is just as strong. Purpose narrows the market, but for most companies, there’s more than enough available market to succeed wildly. In a world of noise, speaking to a purpose that your customer shares is an excellent way to get their attention.
  • Purpose makes decisions easier. Running a business is filled with tough calls. Who to hire and promote, how to use your resources, which markets to enter and when… these questions are infinitely challenging. Clarity of purpose makes it easier. Whether Ben & Jerry’s is deciding on their PTO policy, their next retail expansion, or the design of their wallpaper, they can measure the options against their three-part mission.

I recently got to visit my friend Joe Kenner at Greyston. They are a brownie baking company in Yonkers, NY, founded in the 60s by a literal zen master, with a clear and urgent purpose: “Unlock the power of human potential through inclusive employment, one person at a time.” They don’t hire people to bake brownies, they bake brownies to hire people.

By devoting themselves to this powerful motivation, they have changed the lives of their people and created huge change in their community. But perhaps even more impactful will be their influence and example on the next generation of entrepreneurs. Not only can business can be a force for good, business must be a force for good.



Ty Fujimura

CEO @ Cantilever, the expert website team you’ve been looking for ( Consultant. Aspiring wonk. Recovering USMNT addict