You are here

Use the powers you have, CEOs

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dear CEOs,

If you are thinking that corporate leaders have a role to play in ensuring a better future than the present, now is the time to make that difference. A key concept underscoring your effort should be economic justice. That is your real bottom line.

The first hit for economic justice defines it as “a set of moral principles for building economic institutions, the ultimate goal of which is to create an opportunity for each person to create a sufficient material foundation upon which to have a dignified, productive, and creative life beyond economics.”

There are important ideas here: ethical economic arrangements, fair access to opportunity, and a fulfilling life beyond work. It’s good to ask whether these exist here, particularly in our most vulnerable communities and in the lives of a new generation whose futures are being shaped by today’s realities. As Lloyd Best said to me, all you have to do is walk around with your eyes open. Start by actually walking around.

Observe the inadequacy of public transportation, the justice system, prisons, government schools, public hospitals, pavements, conservation, waste management and agriculture. Observe the level of trust in institutions and the feeling of safety in communities. Understand these are problems of law and policy implementation, of state financial accountability and sufficiently funded social services. In other words, problems which cannot not be fixed by charity.

Ask yourself, where are the public places people can go to be inspired to find their higher selves, and to experience beauty? And, before you think these are luxuries, ask yourself how brutish you might have become without exposure to such places.

Some of life is about hard work, but some is also about rights, freedoms and fairness. Some is also about necessary green spaces even amidst urban spread just as much as some is about empowering schooling.

Get a map, go community by community, and check off a scorecard, asking yourself how neighbourhoods with such pervasive domestic violence and child sexual abuse reporting rates could produce anything other than the social violence we are experiencing today. Correlate that with current unemployment and under-employment statistics and assess what is worsening in those households, and likely to affect all of us someday.

How will you put your shadow power, meaning your unequal capacity to lobby and determine agendas, decisions and decision-makers, to work to transform these debilitating contexts?

In 2012, Fortune Global 500 companies made an 820 billion US dollar profit, but in 2013 only spent 20 billion of that on corporate social responsibility. Do the math for T&T. Take your map and your math to your meeting when you discuss, in these dire times, what serious corporate social responsibility must now mean.

Historically, Caribbean economies have produced great wealth, whether from cocoa, sugar or fossil exploitation, all the while reproducing impoverished conditions in people’s daily lives.

The book Why Nations Fail has a basic premise of relevance here. Places with extractive economic and political institutions, which work to make the wealthy and powerful more wealthy and powerful, will eventually implode. This brings down the whole society, economy and population; destroys flourishing creative possibilities, technology and innovation; and sees new actors, like cartels and gangs, competing for control.

The solution is to create a nation with stable central authority, such as a functioning state, but with pluralist or widely inclusive decision-making; the best chances for everyone to thrive economically amidst safety and stability; and outright challenge to the iron law of oligarchy.

This is tough for local elites as import-based businesses and the iron law of oligarchy, known locally as contacts, corruption, sweet deal contracts and party financing, are how many do well despite everyone else’s falling ability to make ends meet.

It comes back to supporting civil society advocacy on everything from the ratification of ILO Convention 189, on decent work for those domestic workers in your homes, to immediate roll out of a national recycling programme, to approval of a national action plan to end gender-based and sexual violence, to refusal to opt for greater securitisation—weapons and surveillance systems—over economic justice with institutional and social inclusion.

CEOs, it’s time to put your power to make these happen.

How will you put your shadow power, meaning your unequal capacity to lobby and determine agendas, decisions and decision-makers, to work to transform these debilitating contexts?


User comments posted on this website are the sole views and opinions of the comment writer and are not representative of Guardian Media Limited or its staff.

Guardian Media Limited accepts no liability and will not be held accountable for user comments.

Guardian Media Limited reserves the right to remove, to edit or to censor any comments.

Any content which is considered unsuitable, unlawful or offensive, includes personal details, advertises or promotes products, services or websites or repeats previous comments will be removed.

Before posting, please refer to the Community Standards, Terms and conditions and Privacy Policy

User profiles registered through fake social media accounts may be deleted without notice.