Let’s imagine as a Buddhist you’ve discovered a new kind of disposable plastic bag which if buried is totally biodegradable in a matter of a week. You’re wealthy because everyone wants your new bag—every grocery and department store in the world. This takes us to a story in one of the Jatakas where the Bodhisatta who was ploughing in his field discovers a huge bar of gold after his plough accidentally struck it. As one mass it was too heavy for him to carry so he divided it into four manageable parts. One part to live on, another to save (he buried it), another to barter with, and the last for charity and good works.
Lets further imagine that our Buddhist with his biodegradable plastic bag fortune decided to do, essentially, what the Bodhisatta did in the past, naturally, with some modification. He takes care of himself and his family with a quarter of his fortune, invests a quarter in his company and with the other quarter bought other companies related to his interest, and used the last quarter to help further the Dharma, taking care of many monks and nuns. The profit after break-even resulting from his unique discovery of a perfect biodegradable plastic bag has not turned into greed (one of the three poisons). The profit seems to be used in a moral way. Take away the moral side and our wealthy Buddhist is heading in the direction of greed.
One day he decides to move his company to China because the cost of labor is cheaper and the taxes are so much lower. This would increase his profit. He also decides not to be charitable no longer using a quarter of his profit. He divorces his wife and only gives a small portion of his profit to her and the children. He spends most of this money on prostitutes and living, as we say in the U.S., ‘high off the hog’. He ends up saving no money using it for his lavish life-style, instead. Does this appear to be greed?
We can see from the above that our Buddhist plastic bag baron has been infected by greed. Everything he does is for the sole purpose of personally delighting in sensual joys and experiences. He could not care less about the long term consequences of his behavior or the society he conducts his business in which he uses as a mere means to enrich himself. Nor does he realize that greed is not a strategy let alone a business strategy. Greed leads to further excesses which end up benefiting a small minority at the expense and harm of the huge majority. A bird’s eye view of this from Kant’s categorical imperative: “act as if the maxim of our action were to become by our will a universal law of nature,” and we can see that corporate greed is truly a recipe for global economic disaster.