The Lululemon Athletica in Northpark, Dallas has gotten a lot of bad press lately for announcing on their storefront window that they would not be participating in Dallas’ Partners Card. The window sign read, “We do partners yoga, not partners card,” which generated an outcry from customers. One Facebook commenter wrote to Lululemon: “You are a DISGRACE and should be ashamed of yourselves…BOYCOTT…never ever will I […] buy your over-priced ridiculous clothes.” But when did businesses become obligated to participate in certain charities, or give charitably at all? The function of a business is to generate profit and create wealth for society’s benefit, not to support local charities. But the purpose of business has become distorted; the public now sees businesses as endless charitable cash flows.
Partners Card benefits The Family Place, Dallas’ largest domestic violence agency. The card costs $70 and purchasers enjoy 20% off at more than 750 retail stores and restaurants for a week. All of the $70 Partners Card purchase goes directly to helping victims of domestic violence in Dallas. The cause is wonderful, and it is great that some businesses decide to support it. But Partners Card supporters have vilified those businesses that decided not to become a sponsor for the card, instead of graciously thanking those that take part.
John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, has long argued that business unjustly has a horrible reputation. He believes that society needs to understand that “business is inherently good because it creates value, it is ethical because it is based on voluntary exchange, it is noble because it can elevate our existence, and it is heroic because it lifts people out of poverty and creates prosperity.” According to Mackey, business is inherently good because voluntary trade creates wealth.
Yet the critics of Lululemon are completely ignoring the fact that the company is actually making people richer by selling athletic wear and equipment. Lululemon is creating value to yogis and runners and weightlifters by providing high performance and functional gear that their customers are willing to pay for. What’s more, Lululemon “operates with a purpose beyond profits.” Mackey believes that companies should strive to make a positive impact on the world instead of solely focusing on the bottom line. Lululemon does just that by working to make their customers better versions of themselves through exercise, relaxation, goal setting, and personal achievement. They offer free yoga classes at all of their stores. They provide self-help tutorials on their website for goal setting and yoga. They even give charitably to help improve social and environmental health around the globe.
Lululemon apologized on their Facebook page for the window sign. “We are truly sorry for the window display over the weekend,” the post said. “Even though it was not our intention to offend anyone, that is in fact what happened. We have the utmost respect for the important work that The Family Place does in domestic violence prevention and never intended to suggest otherwise.” However, that didn’t seem to calm critics and boycott threats. A few days later, they posted to their page that they had donated $10,000 to The Family Place and they are creating a wellness program for Family Place staff. Customers have every right to shop at businesses that support the charities they think are important, but to force companies to do this and to criticize other choices is to forget the purpose of business in our economy.
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | James Velasquez
Source: AFF Doublethink Online | Joseph Hammond