Balance Sheet of Behaviour
Let’s not call it Globalization anymore. The word has a ring of absorption and distant control that was never meant for it. Trump turned it into a flogging horse for his own impenetrable purposes. “Abandon an ideology when the people do. Give it another name to dress its purpose.” Wise, if cynical, words from a guru. ‘Interdependence’, on the other hand leaves each to be himself or herself while making sense of the wholeness of world society today.
Interdependence declares that survival is neither a competition nor a zero-sum game.
What the swelling seas do to a rice grower in Vietnam has a direct effect on the cost of my lunch. A trade tariff decision made in the White House for purely electoral purposes changes my pricing structure, and consequently my sales volume, at a moment’s notice. Oil on a beach destroys wildlife that belongs to us all. The pollution that disappeared from every city’s air space during lockdown was a message to the world that environmental destruction is our problem not ‘theirs’.
The world today is like Noah’s Ark in a storm. People are clambering aboard on all sides. It begins to look as though we cannot accommodate them all.. Who is to get a place, who, not? Is it a wholly competitive call? Unlikely, I think – for I see some places where women and children are put first. Next I note a tendency to discriminate ‘positively’ in favour of those who have been disadvantaged – increasingly used as a worthy attempt at redressing long-since, past wrongs. But they were perpetrated by our ancestors not by us. Wrong to discriminate against the innocent, surely?
We carry our history like a survival kit as we scale the ladder of life. Look into the eyes of Joe Biden. What he brings to the White House is not experience but practice. Fifty years of trying to do the right thing in a society where crooks keep winning. In the end our life is judged solely by our ability to reconcile our highest aspirations with our lowest behaviour.
The highest common factor and the lowest common denominator were ever the stuff of life.
We need to understand that the interdependence I speak of is not just between humans but also between ourselves and our human institutions. The behaviour we expect from our neighbour or our friend is monitored daily by the relationship we have and the presence or absence of court cases to enforce it. The American Dream started to crumble when relationships – both personal and corporate – were defined by legal contracts. The letter of the law can never be as robust as an offer of help to another to whom we have no legal obligation. Reciprocity is a decent, civilised behaviour but a gift is true only when there is no return.
Interdependence requires a Balance Sheet of Behaviour.
The balance sheets of business are there to show us a fair and honest picture of a company’s financial behaviour. We need to insist on a Balance Sheet of Behaviour for every company from now on to show us the business’s record of sustainability, and of behaviour towards investors, customers, suppliers, employees – and of all behavioural events that affect other people. We do not need constitutions or courts to impose this Behavior Balance Sheet. We need to simply do it. Sensible people will find it wise to keep a personal Behaviour Balance Sheet, too.
‘What am I doing, on balance, to make the world a better place?” is a question worth asking every quarter.
Sustainability is the credo of the future. It is not for governments and world organisations alone to tackle the planet’s problems. Major personal influence is exerted by masses of people going to the top of the organizations and companies that can change their behaviour and insisting that they do.
Will you be one of those people who insist on a Balance Sheet of Behaviour?
“I realized I am a child of all nations, of all ages, past and present.
Place and time of birth, parents, all are coincidence:
such things are not sacred.”
Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh