College of Business

What is Responsible Business?

April 14, 2020

Kelly O’Brien and Shyam Kamath

A diagram for the college of business that shows aspects of Responsible Business


Responsible Business is a core concept

Responsible business is a core concept at the College of Business at CSUMB and describes how the next generation (and many of the current generation) of 21st century businesses operate. What are the key characteristics of responsible business? How is responsible business different from corporate social responsibility?

The "Quintuple Bottom Line": Profit, People, Planet, Ethics, and Equity

Simply put, responsible business is the practice of creating customer value through the active concern for people, ethics, equity, and environmental impacts while running a profitable business. The Quintuple Bottom Line (QBL) of Responsible Business enables us to view business practices and challenges through the lens of Profit, People, Planet, Ethics, and Equity.

By focusing on Profit, a business ensures it is financially sustainable. Without generating a profit, a business cannot survive or thrive, so the primary role of a responsible business owner is to ensure that the business returns a profit and provides income to survive and grow. Unless it makes a profit, the business cannot fulfill the other four aspects of the QBL.

By paying attention to People, a business focuses on its employees, suppliers, and customers. Employees are the key group that make the business function and enable it to create value-added. Satisfied, happy, and productive employees are the lifeblood of a successful business. They deserve good wages, meaningful employment, and the means to sustain their families and live meaningful lives. Suppliers are key because they enable the business to obtain inputs that are goal-effective and cost-effective in order to generate value. Customers create the demand for its products and deserve safe, high quality, and high value products and services.

Planet refers to the responsibility of the business to operate in ways that minimize the harm to the environment and the planet, through its actions. It treats the natural environment as a finite resource, which must be sustained and respected. Environmental degradation and destruction leads to a situation in which business itself is no longer sustainable.

Ethics is a code by which a business abides, which includes legal, moral, and values-based considerations that guide business behavior. Ethics includes operating with integrity and in a transparent manner; that is, “doing it right” with nothing to hide. “Do right to do good” is the guiding principle of responsible business.

Equity is addressed within the context of community. Equity requires that a responsible business acts in a way that provides for the health of the community in which it operates, providing local employment for its citizens, providing programs that help the needy and the underrepresented, and, in general, building a sense of equitable community. These actions reflect the responsibility of contributing to the improvement of the quality of life in the communities in which it operates and for acting in a manner that ensures the equity of the process to everyone it touches.

Kelly O'Brien

Kelly O'Brien, M.A., is a lecturer in the area of strategic management at the College of Business. She is CEO of Tendaji LLC, a woman-owned, employee-driven consultancy based in Carmel Valley, California. Kelly has also served as a member of the Business Advisory Council and an Executive-In-Residence at the College of Business at CSUMB.

Shyam Kamath

Dr. Shyam Kamath, Ph.D., is the Founding Dean of the College of Business, serving in that role from 2013 through July 2, 2021. He has more than 35 years of experience in international education, international development and management, sustainable enterprise formation, global business consulting and university teaching.

Become a responsible business leader

A strong commitment to responsible business can protect and enhance a company’s brand, create a more positive working environment, boost profits, and attract top-tier talent. Consider how an Online MBA from California State University, Monterey Bay, with its focus on responsible business, can offer you the professional business competencies valued by employers in today's global marketplace.

Visit the CSUMB Online MBA BLOG to read insightful and innovative articles on responsible business themes.