Paul Hargreaves: We will not get back to normal because normal was the problem
We will not get back to normal because normal was the problem
These words were projected onto the side of a building in Spain back in March. I believe that the pandemic has opened people’s eyes to see that the old capitalism is dying, and businesses need to lead the way in making the world a better place, which is the opposite of what they have done until now. Since the industrial revolution, first people, then the planet and finally in 20th century money have been commoditised and this commoditisation has accelerated exponentially over the past 50 years.
The planet is dying as businesses have taken from the earth more than they put back. Fossil fuels have been burnt to excess and now our planet is literally burning. There is more inequality than ever in the history of the world with 42 people having the same wealth of 50% of the global population. The whole system and society is broken.
In 2008 our financial systems were shown for what they are: the emperor’s new clothes. We had an opportunity to fix the system then, but we blew it. In 2019, many more people across the world realised that we are killing our planet through our abuse of it. We declared a climate emergency to try to slow down our emissions that are choking all of us. We said, “the fossil fuel age must stop.” After all the Stone Age didn’t end because we ran out of stones.
Now this terrible pandemic has brought mass awareness to the vast inequality in our work force. The people who do the real work: the health workers, the supermarket shelf-stackers, the van drivers are paid less in a year than Jeff Bezos earns in a minute. We have a new working class, “those who can’t work at home.” Capitalism is broken. What are we going to do about it?
Well I’ll tell you what we have done as company. In 2015 we changed our Articles of Association making it illegal for us to put profit before people and planet. We are a founding member of a rapidly growing group of companies in the UK who have done this –the B Corporation Movement.
My book “Forces for Good” tells of my personal journey towards creating a company that exists not just for its shareholders alone but is there for all stakeholders. We and others have led the way and now as a result of the pandemic many more are realising that this is the way forward to make the world a better place, which is the opposite of what business has been doing for the past 200 years.
A new compassionate capitalism if you like.
The planet needs a better way
Consumers will choose a better way
Companies that don’t act in a better way after this pandemic will not survive.