Balance Sheet of Behaviour
The arrival of a pandemic is seen by some as a sort of judgement. Not because it presages the end of the world, nor because it is sent as punishment by some out-of-life influence, but because we are compelled to take stock. Literally, for most people. Stock of what supplies we have that we are going to need, stock of our finances and how we will spread them out if we become unemployed or on reduced pay, stock of our lifestyle – how much of what we have do we require, how much can we afford to give to others more needy than ourselves. And perhaps most of all we have to take stock of two groups of people – our nearest family and ourselves.
We can think of this as a Balance Sheet of Behaviour. Not everything we do in life is of the highest integrity. We are human, with desires that need discipline to contain them, and shortcuts that were better not taken. We have a good side to our nature, a side that often gets scant recognition today and that is sometimes mocked by the people who would steal from others without thought. Our Personal Balance Sheet of Behaviour has become more important with the erosion of religious beliefs and ubiquitous attempts to classify everything, including just being nice.
Corporations reflect their humans
Corporations, we often forget, are collective expressions of humans. Their purpose may be quite mechanistic but their structures reflect our own behaviour. Like us they can develop into responsible and behaviourally-acceptable organisations or they can become crooked, and serve their customers, and the wider world, dishonestly. We have misguidedly begun to weigh success by classifying greater profit as bad, less profit as good. This is a mistake. The purpose of a business is to make and sell what it does for a profit. Making that profit is evidence that it is succeeding, but only if it does so while obeying the rules of business for the time being.
The rules of business were “all’s fair” not so long ago. No more. Why have they changed?
Globalisation is a rather dishonoured word right now. Efforts to save the planet suddenly took a back seat when the coronavirus pandemic hit us. This was totally illogical. If ever there was a time when the countries of the world needed to work together it is now. Our No 1 objective may well be to defeat the Covid-19. However, our political structures are such that we see our objective as being ‘my country must win’ – whether in obtaining masks, medical equipment, best results for not re-infecting or first option on any vaccine that comes along.
In fact, climate damage is as big an issue as the pandemic. It is wrongly considered less urgent by some people. Both climate and virus – and the strikingly similar causes of them – are urgent worldwide issues. If the countries of the world do not tackle them jointly we will likely lose both battles. But how is a world designed to have competing countries to suddenly change its behaviour and work as one? The responsibility of a government is always first to protect its citizens. That inevitably means ‘against attacks by other countries’. And for ‘attacks’ read ‘competition’.
A United World
The need for a global approach was seen after both world wars. The League of Nations followed WWI, the United Nations, WWII. The latter has performed many useful functions in the last seventy years. But sovereign priorities have triumphed too often for us to conclude that it has been an unequivocal success. Whenever an issue becomes a threat – such as the trade war between the United States and China is at present – the countries involved have had to fight for their own causes. The absurdity of this from a global point of view is self-evident.
However, another world movement promises – at least partially – to eclipse even national sovereignty. The new breed of company created to serve, and make use of, the internet is both global and rich. While its international reach can be curtailed, at least for the time being, its wealth will be more difficult to rein in. As soon as a country tries to do so the fast increasing riches of the giant company will be used to override national politics in favour of global behaviour. The creation of new currencies will precipitate this. Big enough companies can assert their own currencies. Intergalactic businesses will follow, though probably not for a few years.
Corporate wealth and power
Companies are already aware that they must use their increased power to benefit people globally if they are to be allowed to retain their freedom. They watch as police forces in several parts of the world are having to modify their use of power or lose the support of the very people who pay their wages. When power was localised, it could be exercised with a walloping at the back of the warehouse. Today, such arbitrary behaviour is followed by uprisings of the people so treated. Not only are financial dealings to be audited – and audited rather better than they have been recently. The carbon footprint is only the first step in business behaviour to be studied.
A company’s contribution to its immediate shareholders is no longer the only criterion by which it is to be judged. Its use of the planet, and of the burgeoning population on it, must also be assessed as part of its responsibility. The criteria for doing so will vary as the needs of the habitat and its creatures dictate. They will not be determined by the transient national governments of the day but by the giant corporations whose market is the planet and whose wealth is supranational.
And they will be judged by their Balance Sheet of Behaviour.