What Does it Mean to Be a Good Company?

Statesmen and philosophers have grappled with the question of what it means to live a good life for millennia. The question of what it means to be a good company is certainly newer but perhaps no easier to answer. 

Statesmen and philosophers have grappled with the question of what it means to live a good life for millennia. The question of what it means to be a good company is certainly newer but perhaps no easier to answer. Does it mean responding principally to shareholder demands? Or does it require special efforts, ensuring employee wellbeing and long-term sustainability? In an age of populist anger pointed at multinational corporations, Unilever sets the bar higher than any other when it comes to being a good company.


Unilever is one of the world's largest consumer goods companies, owning brands like Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and Vaseline. It also harvests palm oil, notorious for causing deforestation in tropical zones where sharecroppers plant fields illegally. But the company's attempts at creating benevolent capitalism are exemplary:

"Through recycling and efficiency drives, three-quarters of Unilever’s manufacturing sites now send no non-hazardous waste to landfills. Carbon emissions in its manufacturing operations are one-third lower than in 2008, through a combination of cleaner technologies and greater efficiency."

In an interview with Martin Sorrell, CEO of the multinational advertising firm WPP, Big Think discussed what it means to be a "good" company:

By 2020, Unilever aims to help one billion people worldwide improve their health and wellbeing and believes that Milton Friedman's view of business being responsible first to its shareholders is interpreted too narrowly. Ultimately, the company will have to convince its consumers and shareholders to buy into its business plan, which means reducing personal energy use and giving up things like quarterly earnings reports. 

Read more at the Economist

Photo credit: Shutterstock

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • In some fundamental ways, humans haven't changed all that much since the days when we were sitting around communal fires, telling tales.
  • Although we don't always recognize them as such, stories, symbols, and rituals still have tremendous, primal power to move us and shape our lives.
  • This is no less true in the workplace than it is in our personal lives.

Has a black hole made of sound confirmed Hawking radiation?

One of Stephen Hawking's predictions seems to have been borne out in a man-made "black hole".

Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Surprising Science
  • Stephen Hawking predicted virtual particles splitting in two from the gravitational pull of black holes.
  • Black holes, he also said, would eventually evaporate due to the absorption of negatively charged virtual particles.
  • A scientist has built a black hole analogue based on sound instead of light.
Keep reading Show less
Big Think Edge
  • The word "creative" is sometimes waved around like a badge of honor. We speak of creativity in hushed tones, as the special province of the "talented". In reality, the creative process is messy, open, and vulnerable.
  • For this reason, creativity is often at its best in a group setting like brainstorming. But in order to work, the group creative process needs to be led by someone who understands it.
  • This sense of deep trust—that no idea is too silly, that every creative impulse is worth voicing and considering—is essential to producing great work.