The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently. David Graeber
Together for a caring society
In the last 200 years, humankind overall benefited from capitalism, but the impact on the environment, and the current level of inequality are no longer sustainable. We then need to rethink not only the capitalistic society in the 21st century, but the very idea of what is valuable and honorable.
We propose to change for a truly fair and sustainable society. A caring capitalism ensuring decent living for all, further growth through circular economy, a reduction of the impact of climate change and of human activities on the planet. As the Roosevelt’s New Deal and post-World War II era showed last century, a caring economy can benefit to the whole human kind, from the poorest to the richest, for long.
We are looking for all volunteers willing to join us to further develop and promote this vision to make it a reality soon.
Driven by an uncontrolled form of wild capitalism resulting of decades of implementation of Friedmann’s theory, our society is facing two major challenges putting it on short term in danger: the impact of humans on the environment, and an intolerably high social inequality.
This is not only an economic or environmental crisis, but our whole society built on Friedmann’s free capitalism and Libertarians’ deregulated economy that is in question.
This adds to the steadily louder critics of our current materialistic and individualistic vision of living; a living where new Wants are regularly proposed to consumers while being often camouflaged into supposedly new Needs .
And critics are not only coming from the intellectual elites but from a growing portion of younger people looking for a more authentic, sustainable and fair way of living, as the success of movements such as Fridays for Future, Black Lives matter, #meetoo and many more underline.
As a consequence, populist leaders have spread in a number of countries that hadn’t been reached since the Second World War. And the level of trust in policymakers, institutions and corporations has reached record lows.
BUSINESS AS USUAL
For a large part the concept of customer centricity has been misused by marketing departments: profits remain the main company goal, opportunistically renamed as customer value, which still has little to do with value for the customers. And as in the story of Pinocchio and the money tree, money is not the mean to a purpose, but the end itself.
The idea that companies should focus exclusively on profits and growth, with the only limit being the letter of the law, is still widely spread in the industry, even if it isn’t a viable option considering the challenges we are facing. The corporate world, as one main actor of our society, must contribute to the solution.
The financialization of the economy created a predominantly speculative system. A manifestation of this phenomenon is the practice of shares buyback. Profits are used to enrich few privileged rather than invested in innovation, people’s growth or set aside for times of hardship .
Offshoring impoverished large parts of the population in the West, enriched a few, and in most cases left only the crumbs to the target countries .
Globalization promotes unprecedented tax dodging schemes . It is remarkable how little many corporations are willing to give back to communities that pay for externalities, for government-led innovation , and for the social support system that sustain companies in time of crisis.
Empowerment, values, purpose, learning organizations, missions and visions remain mostly vague and on paper. Organizations are too often similar to casts, with managers who prioritize power over innovation, productivity and efficiency. Workers are overwhelmingly disillusioned.
The gap between C-level remunerations and lowest salaries reached embarrassing levels. CEO remunerations even often remain unaffected when the company they lead face downturns, while lowest salaries immediately suffer from difficult economic conditions through layoffs or furloughs .
WE ARE AT AN INFLECTION POINT
We are at an inflection point shown by three main indicators.
The 2008 financial crisis demonstrated how fake was the idea that globalization and financialization of the economy could make the markets more stable, promote unlimited growth and create wealth for everybody. On the contrary, instability has increased and inequality worsened. And the middle class around the world sees their condition worsening without being able to create a credible alternative to the system they feel stuck in .
“Fridays for future” movement didn’t only raise awareness on global warming and the threat to our very existence, but challenged a pillar of modern economy: economic growth is a priori good.
The Covid-19 crisis revealed the cynicism of many governments that put the economy before people. It moreover exposed the inadequacy of public health systems subjected to decades of underfunding .
WHAT TO DO?
1. We need a new narrative, an alternative vision of the future, that starts from our sense of self. New norms alone won’t help. Human beings are at root friendly, peaceful, team players and healthy . We aim to eradicate the vision spread with wild capitalism that human beings are only the self-interested, rational homo economicus.
2. We need a society founded on real values. Money and technology progress, often portrayed as values, are only means. Our inspiration is the "common good" as Robert F. Kennedy expressed in a speech given at the University of Kansas on March 18, 1968.
"Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all.
Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over .800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in the world."
Scandinavian countries are living examples of how prosperity, fairness and sustainability can be successfully combined. In such societies trust – in the community, in the institutions – and acceptance of diversity are the basis of most social interactions and are essential to render them most peaceful societies.
3. We need to be guided in our action by the UN Sustainable Development Goals .
Eradicate poverty & hunger, ensure good health & access to clean water (goals 1, 2, 3 & 6) are goals that obviously need to be reached short term.
Accessing quality education & reaching gender equality (goals 4 & 5) are not only fundamental human rights, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Decent work and economic growth, industry, innovation and infrastructure, associated to affordable and clean energy (goals 7, 8 & 9) are required to create the conditions that allow people to have quality jobs. It needs to go with a commitment to pay fair wages in ALL countries, to put pressure on systems that do not deplete local resources).
Concentrating on developing Sustainable cities & communities, responsible consumption & production should be an universal principle, paying attention to the needs of disadvantaged and marginalized populations, thus reducing inequalities (goals 10, 11 & 12).
Restoring the integration of human activities within the earth’s ecosystem is an absolute urgency through a global action on climate, protection of life below water and life on land (goals 13, 14 & 15). Indeed, climate change is a global challenge that affects everyone, everywhere; as well as a careful management the earth’s resources is key to a sustainable future.
Peace, justice & strong institutions (goal 16) are necessary for a stable business environment. Business leaders and politicians need to not only tackle them in their constitutions or code of conduct brochures, but also to “walk the talk” and ban any corruption or discrimination from their teams.
And it is obvious that partnerships (goal 17: revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development) are the most efficient way to ensure rapid reach of the previous 16 goals, and the reach of the richer, fairer, more peaceful, sustainable and inclusive society we wish to achieve.
4. We need companies to pay taxes. Companies must stop to circumvent taxes using legal but distortive schemes that deepen inequality. A strong focus needs to be put on a more efficient and fair use of the collected taxes for a long-term sustainable development of the society.
5. The gap between C-level compensations and lowest salaries needs to go back to acceptable levels.
6. We support the adoption of Evolutionary Organizations which recognize that every employee has the power to decide, leading to an increased employee motivation over traditional hierarchical structures .
7. In decision making a long-term sustainable view prevails over short-termism.
8. Companies embrace the idea of shared value when dealing with customers and suppliers.
HOW CAN YOU CONTRIBUTE
We want to suggest alternatives to the current socio-economic system. We aim to be engaging, visionary, narrative and to propose practical solutions. We will promote success stories.
We welcome any individual who shares our vision and is willing to engage themselves and to contribute to collect examples, propose engaging stories and cases, and promote the change we suggest.
Change will take time, more probably decades than years: we plan to create a think tank to support these long-term objectives. We look forward to a long-term collaboration to change the world into an inclusive, fair, peaceful and sustainable society.