It's no easy task to live up to the "don't be evil" mission that Google
The New York Times reported on Google's plans for a for-profit charitable arm, under the google.org banner. It will start with $1 billion in seed money and fund companies that will target global warming, disease, and poverty. One of the first projects it plans to fund is a new, highly efficient hybrid engine that will run on ethanol, electricity, and gasoline -- hardly an unwelcome idea, considering the good fortune that car companies such as Toyota
It's hard not to like highly successful business leaders who turn some of their profits over to charity in an effort to combat some of society's ills. Such gestures also go a long way toward convincing capitalism's detractors that it's not all about greed.
Of course, some companies, such as Starbucks
It's no secret to anyone that Google has some philanthropic elements to its mission. For example, it has always said it would earmark 1% of its stock and profits for philanthropy. Here and there, it's exerted its ability to help steward certain related themes -- for example, the green Google Maps mash-up it released this past summer.
Some might be tempted to wonder at times whether those guys from Google are crazy. They certainly tend to do things a bit differently from what many might expect. In this case, though, Google's plans may be unusual, but they're certainly not crazy, given that many people know it's not impossible for some businesses to deliver not only splendid returns to shareholders, but emotional dividends as well. Google has always made it clear that it wants to make the world a better place, so its shareholders shouldn't be surprised at the company's continuing efforts to operate not only profitably, but also philanthropically. Investors at large may find that other companies will start doing the same.