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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Alternet: The relentless drive of corporations to maximize profit above everything else, including safety, fair working conditions, clean air and water, healthy communities, and common decency
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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Alternet: The relentless drive of corporations to maximize profit above everything else, including safety, fair working conditions, clean air and water, healthy communities, and common decency

tara lohan writing in alternet...
The corporate model we have today hasn't always been around and it doesn't need to remain the dominant way we do business. There is no reason we should be swabbing the decks of a sinking ship -- alternatives already exist and they are flourishing.

"What's underway is an ownership revolution. It's about broadening economic power from the few to the many and about changing the mindset from social indifference to social benefit," Kelly [Marjorie Kelly, a fellow at the Tellus Institute and author of the new book Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution] writes. "We're schooled to fear this shift, to think there are only two choices for the design of an economy: capitalism and communism, private ownership and state ownership. But the alternatives being grown today defy those dusty 19th-century categories. They represent a new option of private ownership for the common good. This economic revolution is different from a political one. It's not about tearing down but about building up. It's about reconstructing the foundation of ownership on which the economy rests."


[A] healthy, living economy needs biodiversity. We can find this if we begin to look around -- across the U.S. and the world -- where there are businesses designed not for maximum profit, but with a mission-driven social and economic architecture. One of these models is the "social enterprise."

The Social Enterprise Alliance defines these organizations as "businesses whose primary purpose is the common good. They use the methods and disciplines of business and the power of the marketplace to advance their social, environmental and human justice agendas." And one of the defining characteristics is that "The common good is its primary purpose, literally 'baked into' the organization's DNA, and trumping all others." [emphasis added]


The idea of social enterprises is catching on in the business world in the U.S. with the emergence of Benefit Corporations, also known as B Corps, which are designed, "to create a new sector of the economy which uses the power of business to solve social and environmental problems." B Corps are all for-profit companies that have legal structures mandating that the company is designed to work not for maximum shareholder gain, but for the good of society and the environment.

in the 80s there was a move among corporations toward participative governance, employee empowerment, consensus decision-making and addressing the needs of stakeholders with all the same seriousness reserved for owners and shareholders... this understandably made our super-rich elites nervous as they perceived it as an assault on their power and their perceived "right" to vacuum up unlimited quantities of cash from enterprises in which they had invested their capital... i was particularly supportive of this movement as it aligned very well with my own values and principles...

in my work with large corporations in that era, i devoted vast amounts of skill and energy to making front-line workers, the ones who are the heart and soul of any organization, the beneficiaries of the fruits of empowerment - shared decision-making, increased authority and responsibility and a commensurate share of the rewards... it took a while to sink in to my thick skull that the senior managers had no intention of letting such "socialist" notions take hold but that didn't prevent them from giving lip service all the same...

the terminology of that era is still evident in the introductory pages of every corporate annual report but it's as phony as a three-dollar bill... even so, i continue to teach and train those principles in every venue in which i have an entree - consulting jobs, teaching an mba class, and in every conversation i have with anyone willing to listen to me pounding the pulpit...

of one thing i am sure... unless and until a stake is driven through the heart of the utterly false concept of social darwinism and we make a conscious and collective decision to support the common good and accept that we are all in this boat together, we will never reach the kind of organization changes tara lohan writes about...

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