Last January Bill Gates gave a groundbreaking speech on "creative capitalism" at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Here's what we heard: one of the greatest capitalists in the history of the world suggesting that capitalism wasn't working all that well for almost half the people on the planet. He was in effect proposing a third way--the notion that profit and social responsibility were not mutually exclusive.
I was very taken with the idea and asked if he might elaborate on it for TIME. Thus began a rewarding collaboration that yielded his powerful piece in this week's issue--part of our special report on the economy--as well as a stimulating roundtable on the subject of creative capitalism.
Bill's piece looks at capitalism's ability to make self-interest serve the larger interest, and how companies, in conjunction with government and nongovernmental institutions, can make a profit, enhance their reputations and also improve the lives of those who have not traditionally benefited from modern market forces. Bill cites a variety of examples of how this is already taking place and how governments, foundations and regular folks can support this effort. He's the first to admit that this idea is still at a very early stage, but now that he has retired from his old day job at Microsoft, this is one of the areas to which he will be devoting his time, energy and money.
After Bill agreed to bat around these ideas, deputy managing editor Adi Ignatius acted as the intellectual impresario of the roundtable. He convened an impressive group: chairman and CEO of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Shelly Lazarus; founder and CEO of Whole Foods John Mackey; president of the International Center for Research on Women Geeta Rao Gupta; and University of Michigan professor C.K. Prahalad, whose book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid was a key influence on Bill's thinking. Each of them has a distinctive and provocative point of view. You can watch and listen to the roundtable at time.com/creativecapitalists and watch my brief Q&A with Bill on time.com/gatesspeaks
Richard Stengel, MANAGING EDITOR