Pizza and Potholes: Business Insider Misses the Point

Domino’s pizza has been making headlines for filling potholes, and it’s a move being described as “dystopian” by some.

According to that crowd, the government should be filling potholes because that’s part of their job. Domino’s job is to sell pizza, and this publicity stunt is being labeled a dirty trick to get us to buy more $8.99 pepperoni and sausage pizzas at 2AM.

I understand the sentiment. It’s a scary thought to realize that the government isn’t the best resource for a job it is assigned to do. If a pizza place can fill potholes better than the public works department, could Nestlé take over our water treatment? Could our waste management systems be run by Microsoft? Could we privatize social security?

Yes, yes, and yes.

The goal of government programs is to fix problems, and we should seek the most comprehensive system to accomplish those goals. Governments can and should contract with private industry to best serve constituents. It is all about incentives, as well as the financial and social benefits we all stand to gain by supporting the creation of shared value.

Michael Porter is a Harvard Business Professor known for business analytics tools and his theory of Creating Shared Value (CSV) which claims that businesses can improve their bottom lines by investing in social good. Walmart, for example, committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions of their delivery truck fleet by 14%. Between 2005 and 2014 they drove 298 million fewer miles, increased deliveries by 658 million cases and reduced shipping costs by 24%, all by improving their driving routes. Investors are happy with an improved bottom line, and there is a measurable social good through decreased emissions.

There are thousands of these kind of examples, and Domino’s is just the next in line.

If Domino’s fills potholes and generates more revenue as a result — it is likely they will fill more potholes, to the benefit of everyone who uses the roads, and to the benefit of Domino’s shareholders. The impact is even larger: filling potholes could become another cost that townships and municipalities don’t have — freeing up resources for our schools, children, and to the benefit of our communities.

Dystopian? Pizza potholes are a step in the right direction.

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