March 17, 2016 6:16 AM EDT

Conventional wisdom holds that corporations are the enemy of the common good, willing to exploit workers and pollute the environment if it helps their bottom line. But in his new book, Connect, John Browne (a former BP CEO who left before the big spill) argues that increasingly the most successful companies are the ones that keep society’s welfare in mind. Consider Unilever, whose sustainability measures–like reducing water use by 32% since 2008–helped boost revenues from €40 billion in 2009 to €48 billion in 2014. On the flip side, Volkswagen’s shares plummeted after news broke that it had cheated on emissions tests. To compete in the modern economy, Browne writes, it’s not enough to make empty promises. Rather, companies must be “far-sighted enough to make friends before they need them and to communicate in a language that exudes authenticity rather than propaganda.”


This appears in the March 28, 2016 issue of TIME.

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