• Ideas
  • Books

The First ‘Mission-Driven’ Companies

1 minute read

These days, it’s common for major public companies to market themselves using words like sustainability and mission-driven. But University of Baltimore history professor Joshua Clark Davis argues this kind of branding derives from big corporations’ antithesis: small businesses, especially those born during the social-justice movements of the 1960s.

In his new book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods, Davis profiles several of these entrepreneurial ventures, such as the black-owned Drum and Spear Bookstore and the feminist Diana Press, and explains how they pioneered what he calls “activist entrepreneurship” by selling progressive products, using storefronts as political spaces, sharing ownership, limiting growth and de-prioritizing profit.

Although many of these businesses have since closed, their language legacy lives on, albeit in ways that would likely make their founders cringe.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary on events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of TIME editors.