Doing Well by Doing Good

WASHINGTON, DC – Two years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk decided to open access to his company’s patents to anyone – a move that ran completely counter to traditional competitive behavior. Why would a company give away its hard-earned designs and technology to its rivals?

Whatever one may think of Musk, his courage must be appreciated. He is rewriting the rules of business, based on the belief that Tesla’s success depends on that of the entire market for electric cars, and that his company’s commercial interests are inseparable from the interests of society.

Musk’s unconventional strategy could upend entire industries – for the benefit of all. If Tesla’s open patents succeed in bringing other players into the sector, it could transform what is now a niche product into a mass-market phenomenon – a transformation that would significantly advance the fight against climate change.

There is no sense in asking whether Musk is trying to fight climate change or just trying to make a buck. He is doing both. And, furthermore, it is exactly this type of public-minded capitalism that will be required of successful companies in the future.