Abstract This overview of the Pari Network on ethics in economics and business contains an outline of the various topics discussed, some longer considerations, plus proposals for practical action.
- Network Overview
- a. The Role of Individual Beliefs and Ethics in an organization
- b. The Role of Communities, Businesses and Organizations
- c. Spiritual Capital
- d .Security
- e. Environment and Energy
- f. Trust, Loyalty and Ethics
- How is change to occur?
- Practical proposals
- Proposal of Network of Networks by Colin Tudge
- World Food Club by Colin Tudge
- Siraj Izhar responds
- NEW: Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Conference Announcement
- New: Osca Motomura and Brazil
Over the past year a number of us have been holding discussions, via personal meetings and exchanges of emails and telephone calls, on a number of topics clustered around issues of ethics, trust and loyalty in business and finance, economics in a globalized word, the role that can be played by the ethical standards and spiritual beliefs of individuals within organizations, social and national tensions associated with economic inequalities, concerns about the future of the biosphere, environmental sustainability, energy reserves and production and economic issues surrounding climate change. In many ways these discussions arose out of the contributions of visitors to the Pari Center, as well as during conferences such as the Pari Roundtable on Corporate Ethics, Globalization and Economic Instabilities . A further input was provided by the discussions held in Pari and London within the context of the Templeton Foundation’s Spiritual Capital project.
As a result of these exchanges we came to the realization that we have a strong and active network of individuals, with skills and interests in a variety of fields, who can benefit from a continued dialogue together, while continuing their main focus on each of their respective fields. We hope that a flourishing network will also enable some practical projects and proposals to emerge. We would also hope to organize some roundtables in Pari and elsewhere. In addition we are currently working with the Siena-based association EFA (Ethics, Finance and Environment) on an international conference Ethical Choices in Society, the Economy and the Environment to be held at a conference center near Siena in 2006.
2. Network Overview
a. The Role of Individual Beliefs and Ethics in an Organization In what ways do an individual’s beliefs and behavior influence colleagues and friends and permeate an organization and a community? In what ways do example and education transform an individual from a self seeking atomized unit into an supportive member of a community, and in what ways would this lead to a resurrection of ethical and spiritual roots? In what ways can recognition be given to the important role played by individuals with strong ethical behavior?
b. The Role of Communities, Businesses and Organizations Can we acknowledge the ways in which communities and organizations are not only engaged in the production of material wealth but also of human values? In what ways can corporations work with such communities, not simply as a public relations exercise but for genuine mutual enrichment? How can the human dimension be enhanced? I.e. in what ways can corporations and organizations move beyond the entrenched belief that “the business of business is business” and engage in the wider dimensions of life? What are the factors that encourage or diminish the role of ethics in organizations? What are the factors that cause an individual to chose a bank, brand name, store, service or corporation? What are the relative weights of attractive financial packages against such factors as ethics, social responsibility, care for employees and a sense of loyalty?
Many areas of civil society, in the form of small groups and organizations are beginning to articulate concerns and attitudes that transcend national boundaries. Many of these are highly positive and offer hope for the future. How can these local and global initiatives be fostered? What encouragements can be given to the various economic, agricultural and energy based experiments and collectives that are being attempted in various parts of the world?
The increasing distance between rich and poor, both internationally and within certain countries can only lead to increasing instability and tension. A further cause of concern is the power of multinationals to stand outside national laws and regulations and against the weakening powers of nation states. Added to this is the failure of both nations and economic unions, such as the EU, to adopt firm stances. The globalized world is also generating cultures with no fixed beliefs, traditions or values, and societies in which personal worth is only measured in materialistic terms. It is also a world in which we are bombarded with information, yet in which little wisdom is present. How can we counter the continued erosion of social, human and spiritual values? For the first time in human history more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, a large fraction of it without proper human rights and in a state of extreme poverty. Have we now become two distinct worlds that occupy the same space? How are such issues to be addressed?
c. Spiritual Capital The notion of capital has been augmented by the notion of social capital – this includes, for example, the particular skills and knowledge base associated with a group or a community and the economically important relationships established between them. More recently the notion of spiritual capital has been introduced. It is a term whose meaning is still evolving and members of the network have been struggling to come to terms with its definition. Some felt it was an inherent contradiction in terms. Others felt it was acting as a social glue with significant effects on daily life.
The term “spiritual” itself has given rise to debate as how closely it should be identified with a religious connotation and to what extent atheists and agnostics all share a sense of being part of something much greater than their own individual lives. How then does this “spiritual” element play itself out within the lives of those involved in business and finance? Does it enter fully into their lives or is it an aspect reserved for home life or periods of worship?
On the other hand we are all material beings and any sense of spiritual capital has to be drawn out of everyday life; that is through work, play, community and relationships. Out of this ground can emerge a sense of self worth, dignity, and value which will nourish the spiritual. Take these away and the spiritual has nothing to draw from. To cultivate spiritual capital in our modern world we must consider the sense of ‘dignity’ we afford to individuals’ lives and work. Achieving this requires a paradigm shift in the ways we measure success and see ourselves in a relation to those around us.
d. Security Our global world appears far less secure than it did at the end of the twentieth century. The threat of mutually assured destruction had a deterrent effect during the cold war and with the dismantling of the Soviet Union the prospect of a nuclear holocaust diminished. However, the use of small nuclear weapons is now considered as tactically permissible under certain conditions. In addition to that, biological weapons against humans and against the food supply have become more sophisticated and we now face a new generation of nanotechnology weapons. These new generations of weapons do not require large budgets or teams of scientists to construct. They are within the means of small nations and terrorist groups.
The general lack of understanding on the part of the First World about the roots and values, goals and philosophies of terrorist organizations also does not bode well for the future.
e. Environment and Energy Serious concerns are being expressed about the availability of oil supplies into the medium future and the political tensions generated by decreasing energy reserves concentrated in certain parts of the world. Considerations of energy use are also related to issues of global warming, which appear far more serious than hitherto considered. These include not only increasing temperatures, but rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities, a possible flipping of the Gulf Stream and disruption of rainfall patterns that could cause serious drought and consequent famine in vast areas of the world. All or any of these consequences would have profound economic impacts.
Ironically, as Walter Anderson points out in his book, “All Connected Now”, that while concerns about damage to the ozone layer led to wide international and industrial agreements, issues around climate change have only acted to heighten the divisions and dislocations that already existed between nations, industries and pressure groups. The environmentalist George Monbiot, for his part, suggests that we are in a state of “collective denial” over the seriousness of the threats that face us.
A variety of alternative (renewable) energy sources are been explored and tapped, but none of these can fully replace fossil fuels in the short and medium term. Heavy reliance on nuclear power is also proposed, but that brings with it the problems of security and long-term disposal. It is not even clear that a combination of nuclear, renewable and remaining fossil fuels would be sufficient to maintain industrialized nations at their present standards and at the same time allow for the growth of nations such as China. Indeed, it may be necessary for us all to engage in a radical rethinking of our modern world.
Serious concern arises around many aspects of the human impact on the biosphere. The consequences of the spread of genetically modified organisms are still very uncertain. Biodiversity is rapidly decreasing. Fish are disappearing from the oceans. Virgin forests are under attack all over the planet. Disposing of the massive waste generated by a culture bent on unlimited growth is a major nightmare, and there is hardly anywhere in the world untouched by plastic pollution. In many ways we deal with our environment, whose intricate network of life forms is the result of billions of years of evolution, as if it were all there for our consumption, and we were the last generation having a right to enjoy it.
f. Trust, Loyalty and Ethics Those members of the network who have been involved in the world of business have noted how, at the start of their careers, a much greater emphasis was placed on trust, honesty and loyalty, while these values have become increasingly eroded in recently years. In so many cases trust is absent and the mutual loyalty between retailer, supplier and consumer is compromised. Scientific studies of self organizing systems and ecologies indicate that those that survive over long periods rely upon rich interconnections of feedback loops. It is possible that these insights could be applied in a metaphoric way to human systems whose stability relies mutual cooperation, respect of competition and transparency. That is, in systems in which each player not only seeks to protect their own interests but contributes to the wellbeing of the whole. Such characteristics would also be present in any successful economic and social systems.
We have also evolved as societies to include such values as ethics, trust loyalty and even beauty, love and meaning, etc. When these principles become eroded it is difficult to see how a sustainable market place can survive, one that provides benefits and enrichment for all. On the other hand it is difficult to see how principles of “trust” could be legislated. Our discussions repeatedly returned to point a., the importance of the ethical individual in such an environment.
For example on what grounds do people chose a bank – because of its ethical dealings, attitude to the environment, social responsibility or low service charges? What makes a person a good customer? What does spirituality mean to a customer? How do you create an organization with spiritual roots?
3. How is change to occur?
Controls, regulations and international agreements may help to add a level of stability but by themselves are not sufficient. What is required is a much higher level of mutual trust and responsibility. In other words, a sustainable economic future requires the presence of groups and individuals with strong ethical beliefs.
There are good people, people with a strong ethical sense, spiritual people everywhere, in all cultures and in all religious groups. Can they be helped to recognize each other, to meet, to connect, to create positive bonds across state boundaries, clan divides, religious divides? Can we imagine a spiritual polis like a life-affirming web across the planet? Maybe that was the original ideal of Masonry. But it would have to be a complex, fractal group, not an institution. Electronic communication could greatly facilitate this.
Maybe the leading theme could be ‘weaving webs’. Webs of connection across horizontal and vertical divides. Spiritually minded people connecting to think and act about the world. And supporting each other. Across state and religious boundaries, but also religious and lay people, scientists and lay people, businesspeople and artists, etc. This suggests another meaning of “spiritual capital”: spiritual capital, in the sense of “spiritual wealth”, is the degree of spiritual connectedness, the density of spiritual webs in a community.
Thinking in these terms in the context of globalization implies a good deal of awareness of one’s own cultural prejudices. It implies the ability to suspend truth judgments and absolute value judgments and adopt a constructionist stance, a multiple-perspective view of the reality we share. That applies to spirituality as well as to social, economic and ecological realities. There will not be one definition of spirituality. Only a shared sense, fluid and ‘fractal’, of what all the people that recognize each other as ‘spiritual’ or ‘ethical’ have in common.
4. Reflections by Network Members
A key issue is how to find ways of transforming discussions and exchanges of ideas into something practical and something that could have a transformative effect both in small and local ways and on a larger scale. Below are some preliminary suggestions.
Loyalty Carry out an investigation into why customers chose to do business with a bank, store, corporation or brand name? What factors militate for and against loyalty and ethical behavior.
What are customers concerned about? Ecological damage, social damage, issues about the third world, corporate social responsibility, how does a company treat the community? Concerns about manufacture, quality, supply and reliability of goods?
A T-shirt can sell from £2 to £22 with an average of £8. Why would people pay more than £8? How important is the designer label? Or issues about child labor? How do these differ amongst different social classes?
In the past many companies grew over months and years and established lines of trust. But today, with the internet and the new markets, things move much faster. Once people had strong brand loyalty and were even willing to pay more. But today some will take up a salesman’s time to explain various brands and then go home and buy from the internet or a warehouse. They behave less ethically.
What motivates employees to stay loyal to a particular company? Maybe it is more important to be happy working for a business, rather then the size of the wage. Maybe also customers like doing business with such companies.
Recognition The network believes that individuals with strong moral, ethical or spiritual principles in businesses, corporations and organizations can exercise an enormous influence on those around them and even change the direction of their organization. In what ways can the contributions of such individuals be recognized by an independent body – both within the business community and among the general public – e.g. some sort of award, press release, dinner?
Passing on Experience Those with a lifetime in business and the market place may wish to make their experiences known to young entrepreneurs including such issues as – their own experience and exercise of ethics, the role of trust, loyalty and respect, their sense of participating in something that is larger than themselves. The pitfalls and warning signs along the path. The relative values of financial rewards versus inner satisfaction and contribution to the public good. This could be done via a series of videotaped interviews.
Nodes and Satellites One of our next steps will be the creation of a series of nodes and satellites around specific issues with individuals working together and reporting back to the main network.
A variety of examples and practical proposals will be added in the coming months.
Exercise of Power (Shantena) Consider money as congealed energy (or power) that exists in a highly abstract form. The issue of how to handle money then ultimately boils down to what kind of consciousness we bring to handling energy or power in general. On one hand this is a strong argument for the approach that all issues about “capital” are ultimately “spiritual”, so that it is very natural to ask about the spiritual aspect of capital. There is no meaningful way to handle ethical concerns in economics except in a spiritual perspective. On the other hand the equation “handling money = handling power” does not forebode well for scenarios about the future. Humans do not seem to have significantly progressed in handling power in a conscious way.
Increasing Trust and Exercising Right Action (Shantena) We would like to bring about a much higher level of trust and responsibility in the economy on a global scale. But who is the actor for this? Marx would have said: the proletariat, because they are the ones who suffer from the present state of affairs, they have nothing to lose except their chains. Those societies who attempted to follow Marx discovered that the practice was far from simple. Centralized control sends things spiraling off in unexpected directions and generates abuse of power from bureaucrats. How can the consciousness of economic actors grow to a level where the ultimate good of all (including – ultimately! – themselves) takes precedence over some immediate desired goal?
Will it be necessary to collide with a fundamental dogma of traditional capitalism, i.e. the assumption that economic self interest is healthy, that individuals who act for their own good will automatically do good for the whole of society? Certainly it is appealing to persuade people to act for their own perceived good.
Variety of moral theories In traditional societies people relied upon a religious or philosophical tradition as the basis for ethical behavior. Yet when we look at philosophy, it does not give us hard and fast answers , only a series of choices. In the European tradition, Socrates believed that no one would knowingly do wrong; for Aristotle moral behavior was not an abstraction but something that is naturally learned as we become good citizens; for Aquinas happiness and fulfillment lay in virtue and obeying the natural law; for Hobbs humans were essentially amoral but formed a social contract for mutual gain and protection – an assumption not born out by the study of primates, who are primarily cooperative. Then there were the arguments of the Utilitarians such as Mill and Bentham who argued for the greatest good, or happiness, for the greatest number, an argument which has recently been revisited by the economist Lord Layard.
How are we to negotiate through this maze of moral theories, particularly in a period where cultural relativism holds sway? Probably on a collective level, to “humanity in general”, it is quite clear that many of our economic actions are bad for ourselves and for other forms of life. So what balance is possible between the voice of the collective and that of the individual? And how is the collective going to express its voice? Who embodies it?
The Role of Complexity (Illy) Complexity is the mother of freedom, creativity and uncertainty. The uncertainty inherent in a complex world cannot be reduced by taming nature’s forces but by decreasing the uncertainty associated with our behavior. The role of ethics is to help to foresee the future actions of human beings.
The free market activity is based on trust, mutual respect and honesty, a heritage of the Judeo-Christian Religion. We cannot imagine a market in which nobody trusts his neighbor. The efficiency of the free market depends on the proper functioning of competition, a selective tool conferred to the consumers, that by choosing their preferences, decide who will stay and who will exit the arena. Corruption, cronyism and monopolies, deprive consumers of their right to select and create the prerequisite to destroy the most powerful system for wealth production that exists. Underdevelopment is usually the consequence of a lack of understanding the ethical relationship between freedom and wealth generation in the market.
For globalization to function it requires a common ethical foundation. Unfortunately we have many ethics in the world and many other different attitudes. We can suppose that in the medium term the Western ethic will show its power (if we are not loosing it in the meantime) and become universal, but I think it would be useful to remember that the positive effect that we expect from globalization can only become a reality if a common ethical base can be found.
Conflict of Codes (Shantena) During the course of history some types of selfish behavior on the part of individuals and groups have gradually become ostracized in legal and moral ways. Likewise a certain degree of responsibility toward humanity in general is generally assumed in the modern world.
Yet the dynamics of economics (and to a large extent of politics) are still based on the pursuit of the selfish interest of an individual or a group, and on the assumption that the pursuit of individual gain will automatically benefit the collective. Yet the survival of the planet and the health of societies is not necessarily guaranteed by the free-ranging pursuit of the economic benefit of individuals and corporations.
How can this ‘primitive’ aspect of the economic system be overcome without falling into the well-known distortions of state ownership, centralized political control, etc.?
The power of money can be converted into the manipulation of the media and the exercise of political power. How can the ideals of democracy be preserved in the face of the concentrated political power in the hands of the wealthy? How does it effect the relationship between rich and poor countries? How is an ‘agora’ possible for six billion people? How are wise decisions to be achieved across cultural, ethical, religious differences?
Spiritual Diversity (Siraj) The sheer diversity of modern society is putting old notions of spiritual value under great strain. That one man’s spiritual freedom may be another’s prison or pain is now being brought together into a common shared space. We need to configure new ways to articulate what holds us together which is a measure of a common workable spiritual capital. The established religions are both a vital key and an obstacle, no belief system today can be relevant by just addressing its own internal philosophy and history.
Modern media make us the direct witnesses to the problems of humanity around the planet. To a certain extent we can diagnose the problems that face us but lack the mechanisms for positive and creative change. The very mechanisms that show us the truth about life today also disable us from feeling that we can be active agents. This contradiction of modern life wrecks terrible havoc on each individual spirit.
Network of networks 2 February 3 2006
THE NETWORK OF NETWORKS
A Modest Proposal for Changing the Way the World Is Run
From COLIN TUDGE
I: Everyone I meet seems very aware that the world is horribly and perhaps terminally screwed.
Outstanding shortcomings in no particular order include:
1: The prevailing economic system (global, allegedly free-market capitalism in fact inevitably run by the most powerful players) at best can make a few people rich in the short term, but clearly does not serve the needs of humanity as a whole and indeed cannot do so (partly because it involves maximally rapid exploitation of finite resources and partly because the to-the-death competition that drives it inevitably produces losers – who, in fact, are bound to include most of humanity).
2: Crafts are being conscientiously killed off in favour of machines that are allegedly more “efficient” which in turn are controlled by specialist experts who in turn are controlled by layers on layers of bureaucrats. Thus there has been a huge power shift that has disnfranchised most of humankind from people who can do things to people who shuffle paper and watch money move up and down on computer screens.
3: Global warming
4: Extinction of species
5: Loss of cultural diversity – and diversity of all kinds is (a) the world’s greatest asset in its own right but also (b) provides our greatest security against future change
6: In particular, the replacement of craft-based, labour-intensive agriculture with industrial agriculture, and the general industrial/ bureaucratic expropriation of the entire food supply chain, threatens the livelihood of about half of humanity (the half who are traditional farmers) and the security of all of us and all other creatures (not least but not simply because industrial agriculture is so damaging).
7: The idea of “rationalism” has been debased so that it now means “expedient” or “profitable”; and science, perceived as the embodiment of rationalism, has become the handmaiden of big industry and powerful governments, who are dedicated to expediency and profit.
8: Religion, which ought to be among humankind’s most valuable assets (for all kinds of reasons) is similarly debased. The spats between the Mid-west Creationists and hard-line Darwinists is one regrettable manifestation of a gross polarization: a plague on both their houses.
9: “Development” is conceived as westernization and “progress” is conceived as increase in disposable cash. “The war on poverty” encapsulates this debased perception.
10: People in allegedly rich Britain earn on average about half to a third of what is needed to live in a city in reasonable comfort and raise a family. The rich are growing richer while the poor grow poorer. It’s the same the world over.
And so on and so on …
II: It is abundantly obvious that the disasters are to a huge extent caused by the powers-that-be – powerful governments like Bush’s and Blair’s; corporates; and the experts and intellectuals who advise them.
Yet all we are promised is more of the same. Eg:
1: Agriculture continues to implode as traditional labour intensive farming is replaced by agriculture that essentially is an exercise in industrial chemistry (nowadays abetted by biotech) and is perceived as just another source of money.
Yet the continued industrialization of farming – now in Africa, God help us – is perceived almost universally in high places as the only way forward.
Besides the destruction of environment and good cuisine and nutrition, this threatens to put a billion people or so out of work. Yet the industrialization of farming (eg more high tech corporates in Africa) is conceived as part of “the war on poverty”.
2: While the world needs above all to break out of the present conceptual straitjackets education (at least in Britain and I suspect elsewhere) is becoming more and more “vocational”, not in the sense that people are learning crafts again but in the sense that eg “biology” now means “biotech” and is intended to lead not to a greater appreciation of nature but to a job with Monsanto.
3: People who protest against these vile materialist trends are branded as “fanatics” – part of the “axis of evil”; and the terrorism (most regrettably) is seen not as a symptom of a deep malaise that is affecting all of us but as the number one enemy. Blair and Bush stay in power by stepping up “the war on terror “ – which in effect means marshal law, ostensibly to fight this enemy which, insofar as it exists at all, is largely of their making.
And so on and so on
III: If we, humanity, seriously want the world to be a better place, and indeed want our children and grandchildren to live their allotted Old Testament span, then we need to take matters into our own hands. We can’t leave our affairs to the people who have screwed it up, or to people like them.
Ie: the prime problem to be attacked is that of governance.
Given that human beings, as evolved, social creatures, are on the whole both nice (social) and sensible, it ought to follow that true democracy – democracy that is truly of the people and for the people – should be far superior to what we have now.
So the task is to make democracy work.
In practice this mainly means running the world on cooperative lines rather than competitive; and putting the emphasis back on craft; and so on and so on.
All this is very hard, for all kinds of reasons. However, I suggest that one way in could be through the idea of the World Food Club – which is described in a separate attachment. This offers a practical way for people at large to take control of the world’s food supply chain. This is the most important thing to do – and if was done, it could form the foundation for democracy in general, and be the beginning of the end of the status quo.
III: Many millions of people agree in principle with the principles/ analysis presented here; and there are many good ideas out there that would help to push things forward.
The network of networks is a device to bring them all together .
There’s a book whose title I have forgotten that shows how hundreds of millions of people worldwide want the world to be radically different, and run along the co-operative, democratic lines, and would be happy to give up a great deal of their short-term wealth to help bring the necessary changes about.
Also: there are many cooperative schemes up-and-running, including some that are ancient and powerful but probably need refurbishment (like Britain’s Co-op) and others that are more sophisticated and ready to run (including the new models of capitalism outlined by James Robertson).
“The network of networks” is conceived as a loose system – truly a network – that is intended to provide permanent links between all the people in the world who (a) want things to be radically different and (b) are actually doing things that could improve things; where (b) includes everyone from small farmers to teachers to priests and philosophers to bricklayers and barefoot doctors.
The hope is that if enough like-minded and right-thinking people talked to each other, and set things up (like the World Food Club) then the traditional powers that be (from Bush and Blair to Cargill and Walmart) would find it harder and harder simply to swagger in and take control. The general idea is not to try to reform them, or to challenge them head on (which is revolution) but simply to create the alternative in situ, and allow the powers that be to wither on the vine. This in situ construction I call “Renaissance”.
Colin Tudge Binsey February 3 2006.
Treatment 4 November 29 2005
THE WORLD FOOD CLUB
A People’s Co-operative to create a new Food Supply Chain
from the farm to the table
The world’s food supply chain and hence the world at large are being seriously screwed up by the powers-that-be: governments, corporates, and the experts and intellectuals who advise and serve them (scientists, economists, lawyers, and professional bureaucrats known as MBAs).
If we, humanity, truly care about our future, and that of our children and children’s children, and of the world at large, then we have to take matters into our hands.
The WORLD FOOD CLUB is to be a co-operative of farmers, traders, and preparers who crave the opportunity to grow and supply food to the highest possible standards; and of consumers, who want the opportunity to buy such food.
Its task is not simply to challenge the present-day powers-that-be.
The aim of the WORLD FOOD CLUB is to replace the present food supply chain with something far better, controlled and answerable to people at large. The new food chain will be designed expressly to promote human wellbeing and cultural diversity, hugely to improve animal welfare, and to sustain and create landscapes that remain rich, diverse, and beautiful .
The route to change is not via reform, which is too slow, or revolution, which is too uncertain, but by Renaissance: simply doing things differently, and allowing the status quo to wither on the vine.
THE RATIONALE AND A POSSIBLE WAY FORWARD
I: Why we need the WORLD FOOD CLUB
1: The world’s food supply chain is the most important of all human creations — the thing we have to get right. But the food chain and hence the world at large are being seriously screwed up by the powers-that-be: governments, corporates, and the experts and intellectuals who advise and serve them (scientists, economists, lawyers, and professional bureaucrats known as MBAs).
So if we, humanity, truly care about our future, and that of our children and children’s children, and of the world at large, then we have to take matters into our hands.
This paper suggests a non-violent way of achieving this – via what I am proposing to call THE WORLD FOOD CLUB: a co-operative of producers (farmers and growers); traditional preparers and suppliers (brewers, bakers, butchers, grocers etc); and astute consumers – consumers who truly care about food, and are prepared to pay proper prices for food properly produced.
2: To put the matter more abstractly, the world as a whole needs a sea-change: different ways of running our affairs; different attitudes; a different scale of values. In principle there are three ways of bringing such change about. The first is by reform – trying to change the minds of the powers-that-be. But although reform is probably worth attempting (every little helps) it cannot succeed by itself. The most powerful people are just not listening and even if they did, they are too committed to their present course. Besides, when the change comes, we do not want the same people in charge.
The second possible way of effecting change is by revolution. But the time is not ripe for this, and it is not going to happen. Even more to the point, revolutions are inevitably violent and messy, and the outcome is unpredictable. Neither is revolution as commonly understood actually necessary: notably, it is not necessary or even desirable to seek to “overthrow capitalism”, as protestors often suggest. In truth, capitalism can do what the world needs: but we need new models of it, geared directly to human wellbeing.
So we come to the third of the possible routes to change: via Renaissance. People at large just need to start doing things differently, on a wider and wider scale, allowing and causing the status quo, the present-day powers-that-be, to wither on the vine. But the change needs to start somewhere. “People at large” will not start re-organising the world spontaneously. It needs a focused group to start things moving. This group is the World Food Club.
II: What the WORLD FOOD CLUB is
The WORLD FOOD CLUB is a co-operative of farmers, traders, and preparers who crave the opportunity to grow and supply food to the highest possible standards (4); and of consumers, who want the opportunity to buy such food. Its task is not simply to challenge the present-day powers-that-be. Its aim is to replace the present food supply chain with something far better, controlled and answerable to people at large, and designed expressly to improve human wellbeing, and to sustain and create landscapes that remain rich and beautiful.
Demonstrably (5), there are millions of farmers out there who crave the opportunity simply to farm well: producing excellent food; respecting the landscape and the local wildlife; operating without cruelty to livestock; and helping to create agreeable and stable rural communities. Their ranks are swelled by many millions of ex-farmers, driven from their land by the present craze for economic competitiveness, which above all entails the shedding of labour. There are many millions more who have been city-bred yet would love to be farmers. Although some of these would-be farmers are just dreamers, it is also the case that many of the world’s most accomplished and keenest farmers were and are city-born.
Thousands more are pleased to earn their living by, for example, sourcing cocoa or spices from small farms in the tropics, delivering them to western high-streets, and ensuring that the farmers themselves and their communities get a good and secure return.
Millions more would like to earn their living in the traditional crafts of food preparation: as butchers, charcutiers, bakers, brewers, chefs, restaurateurs, caterers, and all the rest.
Farmers, traders, and preparers collectively are the suppliers of food; and all that they need in order to do their various jobs in the way they can and should be done, is a market. They need to know before they invest their capital, time, and labour, that they can sell the fruits of their endeavours.
All human beings are consumers; and most consumers in traditional societies worldwide care deeply about food – many countries from France and Italy through Turkey and Iran to China and India have wondrous “food cultures”. In modern societies millions have serious misgivings about all aspects of modern food: its safety; its flavour; and the cruelty, injustice, and pollution entailed in its production.
The WORLD FOOD CLUB will bring the four groups together: the farmers, traders, and traditional preparers who want to supply the best possible food in the best possible ways; and the consumers who want to buy food that they know has been produced to the highest standards of husbandry and justice.
III: How the WORLD FOOD CLUB will work
All the details of rationale and strategy must be thought through if THE WORLD FOOD CLUB is to become reality. But the essential elements as I see it are as follows:
1: It is not the role or intention of the WFC to replace existing, good initiatives with specifically WFC initiatives. Absolutely not. WFC is not an exercise in empire building. Rather, its role and intention is to identify all the suppliers and consumers who already agree with the general WFC principles, and to enable them to coordinate: truly to create a network.
However, we may well identify areas where mere coordination is not enough. Some vital links in the network may sometimes be missing, and then the WFC can fill the gaps. For example, it may sometimes be advantageous to all concerned for WFC to acquire farms or retail outlets of its own, to be let out on franchise. (See below).
2: Members of the WFC will be of two kinds: WFC suppliers, and WFC consumers.
(i): WFC suppliers. These will include farmers, traders, and all manner of preparers (from butchers to restaurateurs and caterers).
Not everyone can become a WFC Supplier. Suppliers have to demonstrate that they are doing the job properly. This could be achieved by one of two mechanisms. One would be to appoint a panel of monitors, to examine and certify each candidate. But such an arrangement would be far too expensive and implies a degree of bureaucracy that is very much against the spirit of the WFC.
The second possible mechanism illustrates the value and the point of conceiving the WFC as a “club”. For how do other clubs maintain their integrity and purpose? Answer: through the members themselves. That is: new candidates have to be proposed by existing members; then seconded; and are admitted only if no other member of the club black-balls them –although this cannot be done without good reason. The club has to begin somewhere, and in fact can begin with farmers who already have Soil Association accreditation, and/or are supported by the Food Animal Initiative. With that core in place, the expanding membership will be self-monitoring. If any bad hats do creep in, they can be identified and booted out.
WFC suppliers will carry the WFC logo (to run alongside their brand labels, Soil Association certificates, or whatever).
I envisage that WFC suppliers should pay a subscription. Subscriptions collectively should cover administrative costs; and (in the fullness of time) could be used to provide extra services as outlined below.
(ii): The second category of membership is or are the WFC Consumers. Consumers do not pay a subscription. Their role is basically to provide the market: they agree to buy what the WFC Suppliers are offering. WFC Consumers should enter some kind of contract. Some might agree simply to take a certain amount of produce per month from WFC suppliers, as in present-day box schemes. Others, more sophisticated – and preferably! – might buy futures: for example, contracting to buy an entire Berkshire pig (or half of one) when the animal is still small, or is yet unborn (and preferably though not necessarily paying up front).
I envisage, however, that the price to consumers should include some premium that will go into the central fund of the WFC, again for the purposes outlined below.
3: WFC services, and the order in which they might come into being.
(i): WFC might reasonably begin as a (conceptually) simple website. This will provide a list of all WFC suppliers: producers, traders, preparers: people, that is, who are working to WFC principles. Most of these suppliers will have their own websites, into which the WFC website will provide the link. “Traders” in this context of course includes markets, WFC shops, farmers’ markets, box schemes, etc: all the means by which good food can get to people by the most direct route.
This will (a) enable consumers to get in touch with anyone who they feel in tune with; and (a), enable different suppliers to identify others with whom they feel they can form useful alliances.
(ii): The website can and should become more and more sophisticated as time passes and funds allow. Thus ordinary consumers (who in this case include restaurateurs and caterers) will discover from day one that if they want, say, to acquire particularly fine beef, they can get it by post from, say, the Real Meat Company. But as the website improves, consumers who have extra special desires and bulging wallets will be able to see, quickly, that, say, on November 1, Farmer Bloggs of Wiltshire intends to send six British White steers for slaughter. The offals will be available immediately but the meat will be hung for three weeks, after which this particular pogrom will yield 144 ribs (initially joined in twelves), 60 odd pound of best fillet, etc etc etc. Consumer members can then order on line, typing in their membership number, with guaranteed delivery on a given date; or can arrange for pick-up at a particular WFC butcher if they prefer that route; or of course can get in touch with Farmer Bloggs directly to talk about it. There are many possibilities. The point is merely that people with particular needs can be put in touch with the most appropriate suppliers; and it isn’t difficult in principle to arrange such liaison between any consumers and suppliers anywhere in the world.
(iii) Farmers are not generally good at marketing: branding, packaging, etc. In fact, some traders identify this deficiency as the greatest single reason why farmers have allowed themselves to be swamped by the industrial food industry and by the supermarkets. The WFC will provide the necessary advice – or, much more to the point, enable farmers to get in touch with people who are good at this kind of thing; and they will supply the necessary back-up. Some to whom I have spoken rank this as among the most important contributions the WFC could make.
It is easy to envisage more ways in which WFC could help. The point is to provide the clearing house between those who need and those who can do.
4: General attitudes to trade.
All the principles on which WFC is founded need to be worked through and coordinated. This is not the place to attempt this grand synthesis. But preliminary remarks on trade seem in order. The generalisations are that local sourcing is ideal, and that national self-reliance is highly desirable. Self-reliance means that a country can supply all that it needs to feed its people. It does not mean self-sufficiency; which means supplying everything that people could conceivably want. In general, then, food exports should be confined to those crops that a country can grow after it has achieved self-reliance; and food imports should be confined to those crops that are not vital for survival, which other countries can grow easily and benefit from selling.
The general principle is ancient and obvious – but in these days of the neoliberal global free market, this commonsense principle is routinely flouted. Every crop is deemed to be a commodity, and according to the free market philosophy every country should be prepared to sell anything to anybody if the price is high enough, or buy anything from anybody if it is cheap enough. Treasury officials in countries like Britain are currently asking why we should grow food at all, since we could in theory, in the short term, buy almost all of what we need more cheaply from overseas.
However, what is traded on the global market must be decided by moral and practical principles (and the two overlap). These include: ensuring that the ecological footprint is as small as possible; ensuring that the money paid for imported food is returned primarily to the farmers who produce it, or at least to their communities; ensuring that the trade is humane, not least in its treatment of farm livestock; and so on. In general, then, we would expect to see a thriving world trade in commodities that are of very high value but of low volume (so that shipping is cheap and cost effective in energy), such as spices and (some) tropical fruits. We would not expect to see world trade eg in soya intended for cattle feed (which currently is Brazil’s chief agricultural export, primarily intended for Europe). We should certainly cease international trade in live animals.
So the WFC website will list food that is produced locally (to the required standards); and will also list traders and/ or farmers or cooperatives of farmers in foreign countries, so as to provide direct trade routes from producers to consumers. Such initiatives have already been shown to reduce the price of tea enormously – while also considerably increasing the return to the producers. (Ie, at present it’s the middle-men who are taking the profits; both consumers and producers are missing out).
5: Further developments and services.
WFC’s central fund must of course be strictly ring-fenced, overseen by a board of trustees, and with no profits (beyond reasonable expenses and salaries) to be paid to WFC staff, as in, say, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
The uses to which this fund should be put must of course be discussed, and ultimately agreed by the trustees. The possibilities can be taken ad hoc, one by one, as and when they become possible. But they might include:
(i): Support buying. The WFC itself could in some instances agree to buy produce even in advance of the customers. Thus it would provide a (limited) banking-underwriting service (in the way that governments used to do before they became so committed to neoliberalism). But this would have to be done so that assets ultimately accrued to the club, for further good works.
(ii): Information. That is, the WFC itself will provide proper information on what good food really is and how it is produced, as well as on the particular deliberations of the WFC. Information should ideally be presented across the entire spectrum from learned journals to popular TV.
(iii): Research. Eventually funds might be used to encourage, commission or even to carry out research, for example into the appropriate technologies and economics of modern agrarianism (6).
Desiderata ii and iii might be achieved by helping to establish the College of Enlightened Agriculture, envisaged in So Shall We Reap.
(iv): Acquisition of farms. Eventually (or even quite soon) WFC might acquire its own farms. WFC farms would offer security of tenure to tenants who agreed to abide by the general principles of the WFC. The idea is not to tell good farmers how to farm. It is, however, to encourage best practice and to prevent the re-establishment of malpractice, from the hyper-intensive piggery to “farming by numbers” – the slavish application of agro-chemicals according to the calendar.
(v): Acquisition of retail outlets. Perhaps even more important – the WFC might acquire retail outlets. These could take the form of market halls, as have long been traditional all over the world, with stalls of individual traders. Or they could be supermarkets, using modern bar-coding to ensure that the profits were returned to the individual suppliers (so that the WFC supermarket operates simply as a clearing house). Or there could be small WFC high-street shops, let out on franchise.
However: the WFC will not acquire farms and retail outlets of its own unless this is strictly necessary. Nine times out of ten (or 99 times out of 100) it should be possible simply to enter arrangements with existing businesses, which will carry the WFC label.
The virtual clearing house (via the web) will continue, but the more dedicated WFC retail outlets there are, the less it will be necessary.
In truth, the WFC concept contains very little (indeed virtually nothing) that does not exist already.
But I regard this as a strength. It means that the desired global network can and should be built up primarily or indeed almost entirely by forming links between enterprises and initiatives that already exist. These very obviously include The Soil Association: the Food Animal Initiative, Oxford; the UK Food Group; the Slow Food Movement; Compassion in World Farming; Fair Trade; Forum for the Future; Friends of the Earth; the Pari Centre, Italy; the Winged Horse Trust; the Oxford Community Land Trust; the various box schemes, run at the local or regional level; farmers’ markets; food fairs; and many more, plus a host of private individual suppliers that any of us might nominate.
If all these movements were coordinated, and if the funds that could be made available through the creation of the WFC were astutely deployed then this would of itself create a new food supply chain, worldwide, that would by-pass the powers-that-be. Since the world’s food supply chain is of such significance, this in turn would produce a quite new power structure that was truly dedicated to the wellbeing of humankind as a whole, and of the world in which we all live.
So where do we go from here? Let’s get writing to people, and inviting them on board!
Colin Tudge, Binsey, 2005 .
(1): Primary supply includes fisheries, too, of course. But although the fishing industry is hugely important socially and economically, and although it is currently doing huge damage to the world’s ecology and is itself hideously threatened by pollution, dams, and so on, it supplies only a very small amount of the world’s total food. Farming is the major player, and the priority.
(2): Out of a world population of six billions, a billion are undernourished, a billion overnourished. At the time time, present-day agriculture perpetrates hideous cruelty to livestock, squanders energy, degrades the land and pollutes fresh water and the seas. Perhaps worst of all, it is no longer seen as the world’s greatest employer. Many millions have been forced into poverty and misery – dead-end or degrading jobs or no jobs at all – as farming becomes increasingly industrialised in the names of “efficiency”, “development”, and “progress”.
(3): Traditionally, governments in capitalist countries, as in the US of the early 19 th century, saw it as their role to ensure that private industries operated only in the interests of the citizenry at large. Today, the world’s most powerful governments, notably the US and with the enthusiastic support of the UK, evidently believe either that the interests of humanity at large are secondary, or that humanity can best be served by encouraging private industries to create as much wealth as possible in the shortest time (sometimes, it seems, by whatever means). Thus the US and UK governments in particular increasingly see themselves as wings of the corporates: the giant companies that through economies of scale (and sheer brute strength) create and consolidate wealth most effectively. Tragically, the world’s agriculture has become swept up in this overall drive. Farming is no longer perceived primarily as the means by which people are fed, and communities maintained, and landscape kept in good heart, but simply, like everything else, as a means for creating maximum wealth in the shortest time. It is, as the mantra has it in Britain, just “a business like any other”; and the concept of “business” in general has been degraded – from a socially desirable exercise in craft and employment to a machine for making money.
On the global scale, this re-conception of agriculture simply as another generator of cash manifests in the “neoliberal” economics of the US. Neoliberalism ostensibly is committed to the principles of free trade but in practice the US overrides those principles by giving massive subsidies to its own farmers. Thus the global free market that is supposed to emerge from neoliberal economics, and is officially supported by the World Trade Organisation, is a fiction. However, the global free market would not work to the advantage of small farmers in poor countries even if it could be made to work, since small farmers could keep their costs down only by working for slave wages. Either that, or the farmers must be thrown out of work and replaced by machines, which in poor countries are liable to be owned by foreign investors. Neither can the global free market ever lead to stability, since all enterprises, including farm enterprises, are always liable to be undercut by others elsewhere who are even more desperate, and are prepared to work for even smaller returns.
In general, agricultural policies worldwide are not focused on what one might imagine should be their primary aim, which is to feed people. It is because they are not so focused, that they fail so spectacularly to deliver. Instead they are intended to maximise wealth, which in reality and inevitably falls into the hands of a minority. Some of that minority apparently do not care that their own wealth is achieved at the hands of others’ misery. Others do seem to care, but apparently believe that they can help the poor by becoming rich themselves – for example through hand-outs to the poor in the form of “aid”. Thus celebs of various kinds grow enormously rich – there is no upper limit on personal wealth – and then stage pop concerts to raise funds, through which they believe they are doing good. Yet this belief and the philosophy that lies behind it is profoundly mistaken. As things are the rich are creating poverty by undermining the economies and ways of life of poor countries: which, in particular, means undermining the world’s traditional agriculture.
(4). “Highest possible standards” means:
a: Food that is safe (from disease organisms and toxins); is nutritious (according to the findings of the best nutritional science); and which also rises to the heights of gastronomy.
b: That the food is produced with kindness to livestock.
c: That the food is produced in ways that are wildlife-friendly, conserving landscapes and other species.
d: That the supply is sustainable: meaning that our descendants should have the same or more options open to them as we have now.
e: That the methods of production, trade, and preparation support sound, autonomous and sustainable communities, whose individual members are personally fulfilled.
Farming that meets these standards might be called “Enlightened Agriculture”. In practice, enlightened agriculture is best achieved through farms of traditional structure – family-sized, mixed and labour-intensive – though helped by modern technology to take the heartbreak out of the work.
Small, mixed, labour-intensive farms that are sustainable produce a high proportion of crops of great variety, and a corresponding variety though relatively small numbers of livestock that are raised on their natural diets. A high ratio of plants to animals, and the greatest possible variety of both, are precisely what is recommended by modern nutritional science; and is the basis of traditional cooking which is the source of all the finest gastronomy,
In other words, good farming, sound nutrition, and the greatest possible cooking go hand in hand.
Note that modern industrialised farming, geared to the maximisation of profit, leads inevitably to monocultural farming on the greatest possible scale and with minimum labour: the absolute antithesis of enlightened agriculture, and hence of good nutrition and cooking.
Note, too, that the present-day powers that be do not emphasise the natural link between good farming, sound nutrition, and great gastronomy. They emphasise the precise opposite: for example promulgating the idea that healthy eating is necessarily austere; and that great cooking is necessarily steeped in sugar, salt, and fat (“naughty but nice”). This advice seems to be rooted mainly in ignorance rather than in malice – but ignorance among people who have power is itself reprehensible.
(5). Of course, these statements are presented here as top of the head assertions. But they can all be substantiated. The references are out there.
(6). In my book, So Shall We Reap, I envisage creating a “College of Enlightened Agriculture”. By combining ambitions (a) and (b) as envisioned in III.3, the WFC could supply the seed money for such a college; one that would provide the intellectual base for enlightened agriculture and for the WFC forever more.
To operate securely and sustainably – to become the norm, indeed – enlightened agriculture needs to operate in a milieu of what might be called “modern agrarianism”: agriculture that in general is labour intensive, but is aided by technologies (including the highest of high technologies, such as the internet) that are intended to take the heartbreak out of the labour. But although it is (relatively) easy to envisage the technologies appropriate to the modern agrarianism (most of the necessary technologies already exist, though all are capable of improvement) it is far harder to envisage a convincing and stable economic system. A key issue is the proportion of people in any one society who should be working on the land. In the present world this ranges from about one per cent of the total labour force (the US and UK) to around 90 per cent (Rwanda). In the Third World as a whole (as in India) the proportion is 60 per cent. The ideal number will surely vary from country to country, depending on history, geography, climate, and so on and so on. But we may reasonably suggest that 90 per cent is too high (the remaining 10 per cent is not enough for all the other tasks that societies require) – but also that 1 per cent is far too low, since a labour-free agriculture is highly precarious and obviously unsustainable. We might reasonably suggest that somewhere between 20 per cent (for countries that are already industrialised, such as Britain and the US) and 50 per cent (for countries whose industrial future is still uncertain) would be realistic. But the world as a whole should be trying to put figures on these “reasonable estimates” which as far as I know, it is not. Instead, the powers that be, driven by the belief that farming is simply about the creation of disposable wealth, clearly assume that fewer is better – even though industrial agriculture as now practiced in the UK and US has obvious, severe disadvantages, and if practiced worldwide would put two billion people out of work, with no alternative employment even feasible.
Since the powers that be and their various think tanks and research units are not exploring the economics of modern agrarianism – have not even considered that such an inquiry might be necessary – it might fall to the College for Enlightened Agriculture to carry it out.
Much more can and probably should be added but these seem to me the main points.
Siraj Izhar Responds
The challenges for us are huge, as it seems the firing gun to reshape the Planet Earth Incorporated in the new century has already gone off! And the powers that be are facing in a different direction. We can see new large hyperbolic conglomerates gelling before our very eyes: China as World Manufacturing Inc, India as World OutSourcing Inc. and so forth. For India, the target now is to capture 70% of the world’s outsourcing by 2010. A nation nurtured on self-sufficiency and diversity has now consigned itself to dependency on global administration and salesmanship for better and for worse. In a sink or swim world all this is so logical. As even the environmentalist, Jonathan Porritt in his Capitalism As if The World Matters would suggest ‘Capitalism is the only game in town and the most of the world’s population want it that way’ (we presume that he must had some way to have consulted most of the world’s population). But we can assume that what he means is that capitalism is the only means we have now to solve the problems of this world. This is what we need to analyze.
Let me draw a couple of pictures (in words): firstly, of London where I live, where each year one corporation after another – one month its HSBC, next is Barclays …. announces record profits yet most people I know struggle to earn what they need to live on and pay their rents. This is the equity economy where those who own property or other assets earn far more from the rise in value of their assets than they can do through ordinary gainful employment. This is an engineered scenario whereby most Londoners now struggle to meet their bills, or save for old age; and in the midst of unimaginable production of wealth, precarious living is fast becoming the social norm. If this weren’t the case production costs wouldn’t be as “competitive” and profits wouldn’t be as high and London wouldn’t be booming. All this is logical and alas we have an electorate locked in this reality.
Now let me draw another picture: say a bus station in any Indian city, where I am at the moment with its bustling hawkers and peddlers, shoe shiners, peeled fruit wallahs, cha wallahs…the level of social activity is unending. In economic terms, these are the marginalized rabble (das Pobel) that Hegel declared (in his study of Victorian England in The Philosophy of Right) was the unavoidable ‘cost’ in satisfying the needs of homo economicus. But here we have a market, based on the profit, with a breathtaking minutiae of services provided, a micro social complexity where literally useless things get traded or recycled. This market may be a consequence of global urbanization and corporatisation but is beyond their reach or understanding. Irrespective of their double-speak, the managed capitalism of multinational corporations (MNCs) can only serve large economic aggregates. But I hope I am not romanticizing this picture: this is the small picture which virally and intolerably multiplies around the world to produce the bigger one where the bulk of the our species are contained; of the 6.5 billion of us humans, only 2 billion live in what may be called the formal ‘money’ economy, holding bank accounts and such; some 4.5 billion actually live without any holdings, any secure tenancy or employment. An equityless world.
Again the logic in the construction of both the pictures is flawless and crippling; but for those of us with a differing vision of a world we want to live in, how do we move forward, how do we move from one picture to the other? Well there are blunt immediate collisions between the 2 pictures that almost dare not find symbolic representation. Take water and sanitation. Some 2.4 billion of us have no access to proper sanitation, with some 3 million deaths a year due to diarrhea infections. So that’s 20 fully booked jumbo jets crashing to the ground each and everyday. Now it seems that the very forces that created these pictures – and they are man-made constructions – also want to extrapolate one picture on to the other forcing more of the monocultural progress of economic growth as a solution; we are told there is no other way or rather we are given no other way. Alas this is only true in the sense in that in the 600 years since we institutionalized a society based on the individualized accumulation of wealth we have managed no options other than the vast experiments in state totalitarianism or national socialism and episodic lapses of religious fundamentalism.
But there must be other ways. Our inability to reconcile what we witness beyond us with what we feel within us, means we have no faith in the very processes that are meant hold us together. This is our inheritance: of living with logical consequences, and our epoch: of institutional bad faith. In spite of the unprecedented wealth generation, the endemic feeling is that now we are both irrelevant to, and excluded from all key issues that affect our lives. As a result we are turning away from authority, from all our mandated institutions to other forms of association in civil society and it is here that new pictures are emerging, some ugly and reactionary I confess but others which can create something new.
In one, we have the picture of cracks, the cracks that are opening up in the ethos that the only way to solve the problems created by unlimited economic growth is through more economic growth. We know about Enron. We know about Robert Shapiro and Monsanto in the 1990s: the attempt to bind European and Indian farming to irrevocably to genetic modified production in the name of sustainability, we know this was sanctioned by government agencies and think tanks but was defeated by resistance from ordinary consumers and small activists movements. Another crack. And there are many others. Take the privatization of water in Bolivia forced by the World Bank. Again popular resistance to an unequal logic of financial weight meant the withdrawal of Bechtel, one of the world’s largest corporations. Later at a case filed before a World Bank trade court, the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) Bechtel were also forced to drop a compensation demand for the cancellation of it’s ‘service agreement’ (to the tune of $50 million) in return for a token 30 cents. Yet another crack.
And besides this picture, there is a second picture fast coming into shape: we have a planet that has an increasing number of little initiatives, private utopias, little experiments in alternative management and economies-made-reality, generative cells. These are proliferating before our eyes, and connecting up. There are so many, inventively solving problems in ways no MNC could think of. Here in Mumbai I have been witnessing one NGO Clean Air Island trying to implement citywide solutions to the dreadful problem of urban waste through vermiculture and recycling and through a different model of sustainability: both economic and environmental.
With these 2 new pictures in mind, I feel that we are at a critical tipping point. The cracks will only get bigger and join up, and the generative cells will grow and connect. Change can come fast and sooner rather than later; and we do not need to squander a further generation to a genocidal status quo. But what is the work to be done now if we are on the cusp now of a major shift, a potential renaissance. As you rightly put it in your reference to Hegel, we need logistical drivers, tangible applications of imaginative models and of working models. The irony here is that Hegel saw the corporation (as he phrased it) as an embodiment of one such driver as a counterbalance to the danger of unfettered profit accumulation; the corporation in his mind being a sort of guild which guaranteed rights to all citizens of a new civil society and limited wage ratios between the lowest and highest citizens. The corporation today has very different resonances because political value systems allowed it to develop in one direction. Now political systems are servile in the face of its power.
So how do we create models for working institutions to get beyond a status quo whereby the mandated social institutions we have simply do not address the critical faultlines. As Daniel Bell would say they are ‘too big for the small problems of life, too small for the big problems of life’; thus they cannot dare to see or act. This presents an urgent task for intellectuals of whatever discipline: we need decisive new models of connecting the micro and the macro – perhaps a David Bohm-ian imaginary of implicate and explicate orders become real – to enable the new pictures to secure some measure of political capital and secure a permanent change in the circumstance we face. The Pari Network with its variety of disciplines and specialized insights acting within the one network will be a means and tool for us to do this…
Business as an Agent of World Benefit: Conference Announcement
New Osca Monomura and Brazil
Oscar Motomura is one of Brazil’s most innovative educators. His organization creates “knowledge products” for senior executives and middle managers, with the goal of fostering more thoughtful corporate leadership in the area of management, strategy and leadership for executives in business, government, and non-governmental organizations.He is the founder and CEO of the Amana-Key Group, a center for excellence in management and a network of associates with global reach, based in São Paulo, Brazil.
More than 30,000 executives from all 27 states of Brazil and from abroad have participated in Amana-Key’s advanced management education programs and reinvention retreats.
Amana-Key’s purpose is to serve as a world-reference for radical innovation in management, capable of producing genuine evolution in people, organizations, communities, and the greater whole. Amana-Key is an organization dedicated to serving the common good.
FAST COMPANY Magazine writes
For me, the way to start giving back is to reexamine the idea of “giving back.” The phrase implies that, as businesspeople and as companies, we should take first and then give back later. I believe that the purpose of life is to serve others and that goes for companies as well as individuals.
At Amana-Key, we’ve launched a number of initiatives: a program to open our offices to 300 teenagers, offering seminars on skills they’ll need in the future; a program to adopt a school, providing books, art supplies, and clothing for the children; a program to adopt a community, giving free lunches to needy kids.
These programs were easy to start because of the way we think about giving back. Our first rule is, Just give don’t expect anything in return. Follow your intuition and act quickly.
When we adopted a school, there was no feasibility study just an immediate commitment to act. Don’t criticize others for what they do or don’t do. Be strategic in the ways you seek to involve them without judging their motives. And don’t view giving back as secondary to the rest of your business or your life.