Corporate bodies and social responsibility – An uneasy fit
Being a decent person means not grabbing all the resources for yourself. It means causing no harm, taking care of your fellow humans, being generous, kind, and unselfish. It’s natural, it’s instinctive, and it’s a workable framework for a good life.
Most companies are cool. My clients are great. They’re considerate, kind and positive in a business context. They don’t cause harm. But a toxic corporate entity is different. It doesn’t feel anything at all, never mind the same sense of personal responsibility a person feels for the world in general. A toxic business is a machine, and its focus isn’t the happiness of humanity. It’s profit.
A business’ moral priorities can be skewed by an obligation to please shareholders. That’s why we tend to pay too much for our gas and electricity – for privatised utilities companies, profits come before people. Business entities don’t often collaborate, they’re more likely to compete. None of this helps society work better. These aren’t the kind of attitudes that keep people happy and safe, protect environments, or keep greed in check.
When corporate-think goes wrong
Next time you hear about an airline or airport wanting to build another runway, even though we all know air travel has a devastating impact on our climate, it’s a corporate entity at work. The same goes when you see airlines desperate to get people flying again despite Covid-19. It’s corporate bodies doing their thing.
When you read about a company cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil, that’s a toxic business at work. If you see a brand making people redundant even though its profits run to billions, it’s corporate thinking again: influential people working in a context that encourages or even forces them to behave badly.
Politics takes things to extremes. If you’re shocked at the country’s efforts to import rubbish like chlorinated chicken from the US, it’s the same thing. As an individual you can see it’s crazy to import bad food from half way across the planet. As a business-led, corporate-thinking government in deep trouble, it is politically and economically expedient given the omni-shambles that is Brexit. Humanity doesn’t come into it.
It can be hard to believe toxic businesses are made up of decent human beings like us. If you or I did the things some companies get up to, we’d be lampooned. But of course they are. On the other hand, as cogs in a soul-less money-making machine, we get away with behaving very badly indeed.
How values based consumerism forces business to behave better
As ordinary people our power is limited. As a crowd with cash in our pockets, it’s quite something. When we only buy from companies with the same values as ours, we redress the balance.
Next time you hear about a business behaving badly, stop buying from them and free your conscience. Then talk about it on social media. It doesn’t take a lot of noise to get noticed, and thanks to social networks, consumer pressure works.