The Wright Perspective℠
Social Commentary from the C-Suite to Main Street℠
A Blog by Gary Wright II
Business leaders: The Corporation - my notes on the documentary
Sunday, April 4th, 2010
This weekend I watched the documentary The Corporation which was very thought-provoking. The film confirmed most of my ideals, while causing me to question many others. I'm going to share my notes with you, but there really is no substitute to watching the entire documentary.
The story starts with the history of the Corporation in our society. They go over how and why it came into being, which is important to understanding the problems and solutions we must soon consider. At first, corporations were formed with a very specific mission, such as building a new rail road. The purpose of the corporation was clearly stated and well-defined.
It didn't take long for litigation to start between entities, and in a court victory the corporation was ruled to legally be a "person" and as a "person" it gained the same rights as any other regular citizen.
An interesting segment of the film subjects the corporation to psycho analysis, just as you would with a real "person." The parallel traits between a corporation and a psychopath are quite alarming:
The Pathology of Commerce:
1. Callous unconcern for the feelings of others.
2. Incapacity to maintain enduring relationships.
3. Reckless disregard for the safety of others.
4. Deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit.
5. Incapacity to experience guilt.
6. Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviours.
The film poses a valid question: If the dominant institution of our time has been created in the image of a psychopath - who bears the moral responsibility for its actions?
As greed took control, corporations lost the initial focus of the organization, while their mission statements turned to simply, "Make a profit at any cost." In fact, executives have a fiduciary responsibility to the corporation to ensure profitibility. This obligation goes above laws and morals.
Andrew Jackson: "The problem with corporations is that they have neither bodies to kick, nor souls to damn."
CEO Challenge #1: Is there more to your company mission statement than just "make a profit"?
By the time our government realized the problem, it was too late. Huge corporations became exempt from the law when they went international with their operations. If one country applies pressure to them, they just move those activities to another country. Once corporations were established on a global scale, they began exploiting the labor and resources of each region. As American workers became more and more expensive, the jobs were moved to Mexico. When those workers were used up, they move to India, then to China, etc. On a manufactured item that sells in the US for $100, the worker who made it only gets paid a few pennies. There is a big difference between a legal "minimum wage" and a "liveable wage" which keeps the workers out of poverty.
CEO Challenge #2: Is your company's average wages enough for your workers to not just live, but to prosper?
Planet, Inc. - Our corporate leaders don't see the Earth as a biosphere, but rather as a collection of resources waiting to be exploited for a profit. Instead of sustainability, their complete focus is only on the possible short-term gains. Life itself became a big business as the corporations were awarded patents on genes, and eventually, patents on living organisms. Many of the substances being manufactured are damaging to our environment and there hasn't been enough time to do true studies on their long-term effects on the biosphere. In our life time (by 2025) over two-thirds of the world will not have access to fresh water. Much of the world population will also face starvation - not from a lack of food - but from a lack of resources to obtain the food.
CEO Challenge #3: Green is just a buzz word - How sustainable is your company?
Ray Anderson (CEO of carpet manufacturer Interface) read the book The Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken which awakened him to concept of sustainable products. We all need to be sensitive to the life cycle of the products that we use and create. Manufacturing is only the first step. We must follow the cycle from product birth to its end of life disposal (and hopefully recycling).
CEO Challenge #4: How are your products disposed of and what are the implications for the environment?
At the end of the film, they reached a shocking conclusion: The "Industrial Revolution" was a failure. We must learn from it, and then quickly move forward to a new Industrial Revolution that is actually going to be sustainable for the biosphere.
For more information on The Corporation documentary, visit LinkTV.org
-- Gary Wright II