In today’s world, corporates appear to be omnipotent. They control supply chains; large numbers of employees; prices of products and services? More worryingly, there does not seem to be a check on their power. I have two major questions. Where does their power come from? And why do they have power?
To list some reasons for their power that are obvious to me:
• Size – in terms of number of employees, number of offices across different geo-political countries
• Culture – there is corporatism where people on the inside protect each other
• Like minded individuals – people who go in to corporate life want to create wealth and wealth creation is recompensed with bonuses and shares.
The millions of people across the world are stuck in this bubble of wanting to create more wealth being paid more money and given shares that continue to give you money. Even in retirement, you depend on the share price to keep your standard of living comparable to when you were working. Is this right?
During Victorian England, there were many men (let me know if there were any women) who built factories and businesses on the enslaved labour of other men. For example mining, industrialists choose to exploit men and did not value human life. Why? Human life was not valued, as industrialists valued ‘money’ (a human construct) more than human life? The answers to these questions scare me.
There are some industrialists that were also philanthropist. One that stands out for me is Cadbury’s. They created homes, communities, safe working environments as part of setting up their chocolate factories. On radio 4, there was a radio programme with the industrialist and factory worker at the Cadbury’s factory in Birmingham. There was a friendship between these two individuals, which was based on respect. It does not appear that either was being exploited. Why was there this difference in industrialists?
What is the 21st Century equivalent? For me, it is Triodos Bank. Employers are called co-workers and people enjoy their work. Triodos bank has an ethos to take sustainability in to account when they choose where they invest. In addition they engage with other banks and challenge them to be more responsible. They do this through being part of a group – the global alliance of banking on values http://www.gabv.org/ . They inform savers and investors on how their money is spent and invested. They take criticism through feedback, and at AGMs. How can other corporates learn from them? I suggest by looking at their own supply chain and reviewing the sustainability argument. I think the most important point is accepting that you can be wrong.
More worryingly, where does corporates power come from? Now we need to take responsibility, as it comes from us. It is our consuming, investing and saving. If you do any of these activities and I am sure you do then you need to be more thoughtful. I do my best.
From a consumer perspective, I list things I need to purchase and I think about if I really need it. If I do and it is a big purchase, then I do research and think about the different impacts of buying that product. By not doing impulse purchasing, you are limiting your consumption. In addition, you can ask the retailer about their supply chains.
On saving, you have spare cash then I would suggest looking in to banks like Triodos and Charity Bank or getting involved in your local credit union. Your money does make a difference. It can be used for social good. This is a good website to help your thinking http://www.yourethicalmoney.org/
On investing, you probably don’t think you are an investor. BUT most people are through their pension funds. You can influence corporates through your pension fund. For more information on this try share action http://www.shareaction.org/ .
So from my perspective, we have to change. Look at this film on the story of stuff http://storyofstuff.org/movies/ . How are you contributing to this change?
Do share if you have other ways of dealing with this issue of greed?