08 August 2010

Is There Such a This as an Ethical Global Company?

"I was running a profitable, ethical corporation.  I was creating jobs.  I was generating wealth.  I stabbed no one in the back, saw no need to crush anyone below me, and if business is to be described as a “dog eat dog” activity, I had no occasion to “eat dog”.

My employees tended to stay with me for many years;  I won awards for workplace culture, for family friendly environments, and for waste reduction.  I had a disciplined program of charitable giving, and donated a percentage of my profits to local charities in the markets where the products were produced."
- From "Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy" by Lyle Estill

Free trade areas are a difficult subject. It i...Free Trade is widely accepted worldwide as the prevailing economic theory.  In a nutshell, the theory says that free trade will increase efficiencies as each country produces what its best at.  This will drive down prices for consumers, who will spend more, which will boost business and will lead us ever onwards and upwards to bigger and better things.  The wealth of those at the top will 'trickle down' to those at the bottom and poverty will be eliminated.

In reality, while we have increasingly freer trade, its not fairer trade.  The wealth is getting concentrated at the top in the hands of the few.   Global poverty seems to be becoming more entrenched rather than being a thing of the past.

The economic theory doesn't seem to fit with reality.  While economies of scale may be being achieved, local economies, and the communities that relied on them, are being crushed.  The ecosystem that we rely on for our very existence as a species is being poisoned by businesses more focused on short term profit than long term sustainablity.  Culture is becoming increasingly homogenous around the globe and, as big business gets bigger, Governments are increasingly swayed from doing what's best for their citizens to doing what's best for business.

No matter how much global companies contibrute to local communities, or how well they treat their staff, at the very root of global trade is a theory that totally disregards the needs of human beings, our communities and our planet.

Is it really possible to be a truly ethical global company?

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*Image via Wikipedia
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