Most people tend to look at corporations as, at the very best, amoral. They are nameless, faceless groups of suit-clad men and women doing anything they can, inside or out of the law, to increase profits and market share.
As the Supreme Court has ruled, much to the dismay of some, this is not the case. Corporations are made up of individuals. Individuals with ideas, faults, and morals that shape how they conduct business.
Chick-fil-a and Hobby Lobby are closed on Sundays, and the latter recently became exempt from portions of the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate due to the religious convictions of its owners. Others sink money into green technologies and sustainability projects, even at the detriment of their bottom lines.
Perhaps one of the most stunning examples of this has been CVS Health’s decision to quit selling tobacco products. CVS is the second largest retail pharmacy in the US with 7,600 stores, second only to Walgreens.
The move will reportedly cost the company $1.5 billion a year.
If that ain’t sacrificing profit for your values, I don’t know what is.
The pharmacy giant as also made available cheap and free tobacco use cessation products to help its customers make the transition from smoker to non-smoker.
But this isn’t just a story about CVS.
The government has campaigned for years to reduce tobacco use; smoking and dipping cause a variety of cancers and other illnesses, not to mention the dangers of second hand smoke. While their campaigns have been somewhat effective, there are still over 42 million smokers in the US. Between exorbitant sin taxes, costing as much or more than the pack of cigs themselves in some places, and graphic commercials this government-run campaign has been extremely expensive.
By CVS implementing this new policy they are showing us all that there are free market solutions to social problems.
The government isn’t banning the sale of tobacco products; they aren’t drastically increasing the cost to the stores, and they aren’t making them put up huge posters of people with tracheostomies and rotten teeth. CVS did this of its own accord because they knew it to be in line with the set of values they profess as an organization.
This move will undoubtedly go a long way in developing goodwill from its customers and bringing in new customers who may have lost a family member or friend to the cancers caused by tobacco use, but that isn’t the point.
Non-profits, think tanks, and politicians aren’t going to be the ones that change the world in the end, just by advocating for government intervention into societal problems. It is going to be upstanding for-profit organizations like CVS who, without being prompted by the government, create value in the world while promoting their ideals.