Over the past few years I’ve been getting more and more unhappy with big business. It concerns me how they seem to focus on doing anything they can to make a profit without caring what they do to the world, just as long as they make the biggest profit they can. It’s so disappointing. This has made me suspicious of all businesses, but that’s unfair. I’ve realised that there are plenty (but not enough) of good businesses that are concerned with the world. I’ve realised that it’s not business that I’m concerned with but exploitation.
Let me explain why I think that business doesn’t need to be synonymous with exploitation.
What business can be
Why do we have businesses? If you think about it from a simple level, it’s because a business can provide the general population with something useful or a service that is useful. A business can collect together expertise and capability and provide that to the community as and when they need it. For example, consider a business that builds furniture. Not everyone has the capability or skill to build their own furniture, so they are happy to purchase furniture from company, or business, that has good skills in making furniture. It just makes good sense and allows a society to function well.
However, our society seems to be losing it’s way.
Today we have corporations whose whole reason for being is to make profits, and make the biggest profits they can. Their measure of success is how much “return” (read profit when they say “return”) they can provide their shareholders and to themselves. The senior individuals in the corporation measure their personal success by salary, bonuses, share grants/options and pension plans. They don’t really care what the company does as long as it makes the most profit possible. If something comes up that can make more profit, they’ll jump on that.
Concentrating on profits alone tends to lead to exploitation.
Exploitation of people and Nature
Minerals, like uranium, oil and gas, are things that the whole world needs (at least at the moment) for energy. These things are a little like oxygen – it’s hard to live without them. Yet the world is currently setup where, for the large part, massive corporations are in control of these necessary commodities. These are all natural commodities available, by the grace of Nature, at numerous places around the world. There are plenty of these commodities available, but massive corporations exploit Nature to make the biggest profits possible. They search the Earth for the most easily accessible commodities they can, because this means more profits, and then they sell the commodities that the Earth provided at the highest price possible. These huge corporations get involved in politics to ensure that laws are implemented that keep the need for their commodities at a high, and increasing, level so that their profits will be guaranteed.
This is sad but true.
Of course, we can’t single out these big corporations and say they are bad and everyone else isn’t. Our whole society is setup for such things to happen. The things we value in society have led to this situation.
It’s clear that the farming, agriculture and food industries are all going the same way. Exploitation and profits are the gods of these industries and they don’t care if the bee populations and the amounts of usable, healthy topsoil are disappearing at a rapid rate.
Another huge concern is the health industry (sickness industry?) where huge profits from medications are the order of the day. People getting well from healthy living doesn’t factor nicely into the profits of the huge pharmaceutical companies, so they don’t want to promote that. To make profits, they need people to be getting sick over and over. The perfect scenario is to have the population needing to take a pill everyday to keep them precariously “healthy”.
And, of course we can’t forget the fashion industry which is renowned for exploiting children in far away countries to make clothing at low costs that will be sold in boutiques for very high prices. Who really needs “designer” clothing anyway. As a society, we’re fooling ourselves.
Concern for the environment, and the general population, doesn’t figure well in the equations of making the biggest profits possible. Big corporations need people to do a lot of the hard labour, and there is clearly a tendency to pay employees as little as possible and to have them on the worst conditions possible. This leads to bigger profits. Once again, sad but true. You can see this everywhere. In the search for the most easily accessible commodities in the world, it’s not unknown for an area of the world to be scarred by the activity of the search and for a company to successfully find the commodity they were looking for, only to then walk away from the area saying “the find was not economic”. Read into this that the company could not make enough profit from this area and would prefer to search elsewhere where bigger profits might be on offer.
How we could go forward
If we thought of natural resources as we think of air, we’d see that their is plenty to go around and the real need of the world is to get the resources to the people that need it in a fair and efficient manner, with the least impact on the environment. Profit really doesn’t come into the equation, just as profit doesn’t come into air (at least so far). Of course, there would be companies involved in finding the resources, refining them and distributing them to the world’s people, and they would be paid in a fair way so they their business can be sustained and develop. But the aim would not be on the maximum profits possible.
Focussing on maximising profits leads directly to exploitation. Exploitation of everyone and everything possible. We are forced to introduce laws to try and stop exploitation, but companies still try and find any area of exploitation they can. Some companies have become so large, they are actually highly influential in what laws get implemented.
Focussing on providing a good service to the world population leads to good businesses. Exploitation is not providing a good service to the people of the world. Exploitation is completely the opposite of serving the people of the world.
Business means serving the people of the world
Business means serving the people of the world. Providing something useful that helps and serves people, and receiving fair compensation so that their business can survive and develop.
Of course, even with good businesses serving the world, there would be competition between similar businesses. This is fine and a good way to ensure that businesses keep improving and provide the best services possible to the world. However, there would be no monopolies as these can easily lead to exploitation in their own right.
I often don’t like the effects of big business but, actually, it’s exploitation that I don’t like. I don’t mind business. If someone provides me with something I need or a service I need, I have no problem at all that they make a fair profit from that. In fact, that’s what I’d expect. What I don’t like is when companies try to monopolise a market especially through unfair practices, or use fancy marketing tricks to sell you something you don’t need, or disguise what they’re actually selling. All the things like that.
So let’s seek out good businesses and support them. Let’s boycott any company that is being exploitative. Our actions have the biggest impact on companies that thrive on exploitation. Avoid them completely and explain the situation to your friends. Let’s become aware that business doesn’t have to be exploitative and support a better world.
Related Links – Business vs Exploitation
- The Real Cost of Cheap Stuff
- Our soil is dying
- What Really Matters?
- Can we believe advertising?
- The Natural Effect
- At the end of this page – Go Green: Eco-Friendly Products We Should All Be Using (from CustomEarthPromos.com) – is a list of some good things that companies are doing
- Annan calls for end to ‘unconscionable’ exploitation of Africa’s resources from The Guardian
- Just 90 companies caused two-thirds of man-made global warming emissions from The Guardian but don’t blame the oil companies, we’re the ones that use the stuff. If we wan’t to stop global warming, we have to use less fossil fuels – see Use 10 Percent Less and 10 Percent Less Can Halt Global Warming
- Some of the large worldwide companies that are making significant efforts in being more responsible to society are listed here in 10 global companies that are environmentally friendly – from Virgin
- Good Energy – the energy company I use which appears to be highly responsible
- Triodos Bank – a bank that I use that, from everything I’ve seen so far (over 2 years), is exactly the way banks should be run – very refreshing to see – sustainable banking
Found this report from Australia on abandoned mining sites, just as an example of the “Business vs Exploitation” theme.
Here’s an example of how Monsanto wants to monopolise the agricultural seed industry. They’re doing a good job of it, but t can’t be sustainable. Their motivation appears to be profit only.
Seeding Fear [view this 10 minute documentary]
Just stumbled on your article here, thank you! It was helpful to read as I work on gathering research regarding the intersections of exploitation and online business / entrepreneurship.
Thanks for dropping by and leaving a note. I’d love to see the results of your research at the appropriate time.
Best of luck!