About Corporations

Corporations should consider the "triple bottom line" for the good of people and the planet, and not just profitA couple of years ago, if you had asked me what the world’s biggest problems were, I would have listed quite a few things – but corporations would not have been among them. At that point in time, they were such a part of the background that I hadn’t really “seen” them.

But, today, I’d list corporations as among the biggest problems mankind is facing.

If you train a dog to be a junkyard dog and to attack anyone who comes onto the premises, that’s fine. The dog serves a purpose. But to create such a dog and not control it is criminal.

Corporations are like that. And, note here that I am not talking about small entities where the original founders are still involved in the day to day activities like Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream or such. I’m talking here about large publicly traded companies with boards of directors and thousands of stock holders.

What are corporations, that I should give them such a bad rap? We all know what they are, if we just think about it. They are entities that are created and that exist to seek profit for their shareholders. And the people running them are judged and retained or dismissed based on how well they maximize return-on-investment for the shareholders.

So, why is a corporation like a junkyard dog? Because they will seek the path of the highest profit at each decision juncture. If the choice is between what’s good for the company’s bottom line or what’s good for people – they will always go for the bottom line – unless the economic consequences of the potential PR fall-out might outweigh the profits gained. And even with that latter consideration – it will still be a consideration based on where the maximum profit lies in the situation.

So, is this an evil thing? No, no more that the junkyard dog, once trained, is evil for doing what he was trained to do. It’s just a plain and simple fact that corporations are about profits – not people. They are like that junkyard dog or the sharp pocket-knife in your pocket. They can be very useful in the right situation and they can cause serious harm when they are misused or uncontrolled.

The problem with corporations in today’s world is that they are largely uncontrolled. Especially in the U.S. The economic power of many of them rival or exceed the economic power of many sovereign nations today. This is a very bad thing. We have loosed great slobbering junkyard dogs of Capitalism on the world and now we stand about surprised that

– Our rain forests are being cut down
– Our fisheries are being destroyed
– Our atmosphere is being polluted by excessive CO2

And on and on. If you look what’s behind many of the world’s big problems today, you will find corporations and their decisions.

So, am I outing myself as anti-Capitalism with all of this rant? Nope. I clearly recognize that Capitalism and corporations produce the vast majority of the wealth and innovations in our world. I’m not advocating here to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. No, I’d just like to suggest that it is time in our human history to recognize that unleashing corporations and letting them do what they do unconstrained – is a very bad idea.

The right approach is to make corporations subordinate to a higher level of control. And that higher level of control would have as its highest priority, the good of mankind. We’re not talking Communism here. We’re not even talking robust Socialism here. We’re just saying that the highest level of decision-making in this world cannot be controlled by entities whose primary purpose for existing is to seek profit. It must be controlled by folks whose primary concern is for the well-being of all of us – humanity.

Would this or should this “kill” Capitalism and corporations and their ability to create wealth and innovation? No. The aim of those at the top should be to leave the Capitalistic elements run free so long as their decisions do not run counter to the highest good for humanity. If this was well and evenly applied, then all the world’s corporations would still operate on a level playing field and would not lose competitive advantage against each other. Their range of action would be restricted but the restrictions would apply equally to all of them.

Idealistic balderdash, you say? Impossible to implement, you say? Perhaps. But, in the end, I think we have no choice but to do this or something not unlike it. Because, the way we are going, we are on a history train bound for deep disaster.

Places like Wal-Mart sell the schlock they do because they’ve decided to try to own the low end of the market and that’s simply how you do it at that end of the market. They will advertise to convince you that their product quality is high, that their products are equivalent to those sold by others, they will shop for their stock at the cheapest places they can find, they will cut quality, they will ignore problems, they will ignore human rights abuses in the factories that supply them, they will intentionally mislead the public if necessary and they will do all of this with a clean conscience – because all of it improves their bottom line – and that’s all that matters at the end of the day to them.

If we piss and moan about their lack of integrity and their lack of caring about people – we’re really just trying to reason with a junkyard dog. And that dog only has one purpose in life – to bite you if you are unwary and get too close.

Dennis Gallagher
Dennis Gallagherhttp://www.samadhisoft.com
I’m an American by birth but I’d have to say that I primarily consider myself a citizen of the planet. I’m also a generalist and a futurist by inclination and I’m deeply grounded in systems thinking - having been a computer programmer and systems analyst for 25 years.

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