The team have asked me to share some thoughts on how I believe capitalism can work in ways which sustain our planet and help us and the world around us survive and thrive. Here’s a brief snapshot of my personal approach to running businesses and how I see them as part of a much bigger shared picture.
I have always believed strongly that the pursuit of profit need not be undertaken aggressively, at the expense of others, or in the absence of a moral conscience. This may be because I grew up in the 1980s and saw too much naked, ruthless capitalism in action in my formative years! I am also a huge admirer of those businesses and business people who resist the siren song of profit at all costs. Partnership models like John Lewis, altruistic capitalism in action (think the founder of Richer Sounds giving away much of his company to his staff), models of shared ownership like Aber Instruments here in Ceredigion. All of these are good examples of healthy, socially conscious, collaborative capitalism in action.
Putting altruistic motives and motivation, ethical behaviour and a recognition that we must find sustainable ways to live and work for our own sake and the sake of our planet, are slowly being recognised as a foundation for this much healthier form of capitalism. As we arrive in a new post-Covid world we will have an opportunity to take this path on a national and a global scale. It will not happen easily or quickly. The depth of the cultural change we must engender and be part of is significant. It will take strong governmental policy action, willing businesses to change their approach and consumers voting with their wallets to support businesses which are genuinely altruistic, ethical and sustainable.
There are plenty of ‘corporate social responsibility’ policy documents paying lip service to a new, more considerate and holistic way of doing business. Some companies are also genuinely trying to engage with staff and customers in new ways but there are still far fewer businesses who genuinely work towards these goals and have them as core principles. Perhaps this is unsurprising as there is little doubt that short-term profits will suffer when businesses take longer-term views and seek to preserve employment as well as capital.
Profit is essential so that businesses can survive and thrive but this should never be at the expense of wellbeing – planetary or personal.
The question we must all ask ourselves is this: ‘what part can I play in making change happen?’