City Hippy

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

DEBATE: Big Business Bad?

Spurred on by the Chocolate thread on the FOE LIVING forum site...a new topic seems to have arisen:

Is big business capable of evolution towards a more sustainable business model?

Why do we assume that because big business has generally ignored the people and planet bottom lines that ALL big businesses always will?


By big business, by the way, lets assume we mean publicly traded companies.

City Hippy's answer to kick things off:

Yes we believe that big businesses that are publicly traded can be ethical...saw a recent report from the US (cannot recall or find where - anyone know - think it was from the WSJ?) showing that public companies embracing the triple bottom line (people - planet - profits) are outperforming those focused on profits alone.

Examples...well it seems early days yet as publicly traded companies often seem slow to embrace trends...but Cadbury's buying Green & Black and Dean Foods Purchase of Rachel's Organic (Horizon Organic Brand) seem to indicate big business is starting to wake up and embrace a new business model.


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At 12:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ethical trading should be encouraged, as the wise old native north american said,'when the final tree is felled and the last fish eaten,the white man will realise he cannot eat money'Hidden agendas and colusion between gov'ts and corps dictate how business is done to date.WE the PEOPLE NEED to CHANGE that ratio!

At 6:32 AM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Could not agree more!

We have no problem with Free trade...but we do not live in a truly free of dominance and government subsidy of generally those who need it the least ie tax breaks to Ford etc.

We are changing that ratio...Fair Trade is resetting the system...long may it continue!



At 11:09 AM, Blogger Ragnarok said...

I don't think the change, which I think is undeniable, is taking place because big businesses have woken up. It's occuring because the public have woken up, the businesses knew what they were doing all along. If the public weren't so aware of business 'unethical trading'I very much doubt that we would see any change.

It's just conforming to capitalism main criteria, supply and demand. Just this time instead of the product being demanded, it's ethics. A most welcome change I must add though.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger City Hippy said...

I agree Ragnarok...sadly business has traditionally had no interest in ethics. It is consumers that are in the driving seat.

For anyone who wants to find out why the above is true I recommend that you watch the great movie 'THE CORPORATION' which explains it all.

The growth of Organic and Fair Trade businesses etc is strong evidence of a more discerning and informed market which is shifting the balance of power away from the suppliers and back towards the market.

Power to the people? Is this a short-term shift that will rebound or is this a long-term cultural shift which will change the world? For the better or worse?



At 1:56 PM, Blogger Ragnarok said...

Good question. The public are more informed about issues like these than ever before. I can't imagine that the public will abandon such thoughts and facts quickly unless something like an economic crash were to happen in the west; That's when people's selfish money-grabbing side will emerge again.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger City Hippy said...

Yeah I raise a good point about how the only thing that can seemingly derail the 'green and fair' express we are on is a recession.

Although that does assume that we pay more for 'green and fair' goods...and in my experience this is not always the case. Plus as more and more people buy 'green and fair' stuff the prices are going down.

I bought some organic honey recently and the regular stuff of the same brand actually cost more. Also the same happened with a fairtrade tea.




At 7:50 AM, Anonymous Truth Seeker said...

The capitalist mentality is the problem. As long as it exists humans won't be able to live in harmony with each other or the planet.

Especially the huge corporations are VERY powerful. And working together with the government they shape everything. Our environment, our way of life, our values, our thinking!

Maybe some corporations "choose" to produce more environmentally friendly or at least claim that they do, to increase their profit margin. But does that solve the problem?! Not to me.
I am against the Free Trade development we experience. I do realize that Free Trade the way it is now can't really be called that way. But let's just imagine a world without protectionist policies and where trade conditions are more or less the same for each nation.
What will happen to those countries that don't have the resources to compete? What if a country specializes on a certain good, provides the whole world with that good (which is hardly good for the environment, e.g. monoculture; diversity should be the aim) and then from one day to the next this good is not needed anymore due to "technological advancements"? That country will be ruined, since it had to specialize itself so much to compete on the world market.

As long as this constant competition between companies exists, they will be tempted to abuse humans and nature (not saying that humans are not part of nature!).
Not much will change. Corporations will just focus on greenwashing their potential consumers more, assuming peoples' set of values really changes (which would we very uncapitalistic, and is not being supported by the system at all).

You are stating that people are becoming more "ethical", starting to care more about the heritage of the products they consume.
Well, that's great, if that's the case in the UK. But the UK ain't the world. There will always be people who have little money and can be glad that they can afford some meat or a piece of chocolate at all, and they will always be the majority.
In my opinion we are being raised with a certain set of values (to be individualistic, to consume like a dog and to aim for wealth like a dog). These values lead to ignorance for the majority.

We can't ignore that the UK is actually very advanced when it comes to consumer awareness.
99% of the world population can't give a rat's arse. They have other probs, being so caught up in their "little worlds".

Oki, I think I should stop for now. There is much more to say, but to sum it all up in one sentenc:

As long as we live in a capitalist system, that produces people with "capitalist mindsets" (ignorant, self centred, profit orientated) not much will change.

There are a few VERY powerful people that love the way things are in this world right now since they profit from it immensely and might even believe that this is the best system for humans.
They won't give up power easily.

There is no such thing as 'ethical capitali$m'!



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