By Gaia Grant
The price of global connection
The world has become incredibly interconnected.
One person’s actions, one community’s actions, one country’s actions – these can all now have a global impact.
Think about how careless environmental stewardship can contribute to universal global warming. Higher carbon dioxide emissions in one part of the world can lead to flooding another. Consider how a basic disregard for humanitarian rights can be traced through supply chains around the world. Purchasing goods in an individual’s home in one country can support slavery and forced labour somewhere else.
Our interconnectedness means that we all now have a greater responsibility. We can no longer rely on special interest fringe groups to take responsibility for the planet’s social and environmental issues. The outcomes will impact all of us, and we all now need to step up to the challenge.
What the city skyline says about accountability
Try visualising any large city skyline.
No doubt you will be picturing how corporate skyscrapers dominate the landscape. They would tower over the religious steeples and government edifices that still feature in contemporary urban cityscapes. Any more traditional tribal village totem poles or chiefs’ longhouses would certainly appear greatly diminished in this context.
This tells us something about who should be leading the way for change. While once it would have been the tribal heads, religious authorities and governmental agencies, these are institutions no longer considered to be the major leaders and influencers in society. This responsibility now often lies instead in the commercial sphere and with private agencies (Campbell 1991) 1.
As these organisations are the focus of contemporary human activity, as they hold the power and influence to make the changes required, they must now be more accountable. These organisations now need to become morally responsible for our collective future (Margolis and Walsh 2013) 2.
With great power comes great responsibility
It has become accepted and often repeated that with great power comes great responsibility (French National Convention decrees collection, May 8 1793). There is the expectation that commercial enterprises will not only support societies financially, but also socially and ethically.
Temporary surface greenwashing solutions will not stick. The true underlying colours will soon show through. Instead, deep ethically grounded approaches will need to be developed, approaches that originate from strong core values.
Are you taking responsibility and leading for change in your organisation?
Questions to consider:
- What are your core values? How do they impact your decisions and actions in the workplace?
- What are your organisation’s core values? How could they provide purpose and direction for taking greater responsibility?
- What could you and your organisation be doing differently that could really make a difference to other people and to the planet?
- Campbell, J. 1991. The Hero’s Journey, Harper, San Francisco
- Margolis J, Walsh J. 2003. Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business. Administrative Science Quarterly 48: 268–305.