It kind of crept up on me a couple of years ago when I read Paul Polman's article about "Where Our Moral Compass Meets the Bottom LIne". it came just months after sharing 'The New Bottom' LIne with McKinsey.
Then last year , he joined Richard Branson in a call for using business to rebuild Ukraine's economy, as we had in our 'Marshall Plan delivered to the government of Ukraine in 2007..
In a recent missive, Polman turns to the threat to the environment as we had done at Sumy with the Economics for Ecology conferences in 2009/10
'Where Our Moral Compass Meets The Bottom Line' begins with a quote from Winston Churchill - "democracy was the worst form of government apart from all the others that had been tried."
Was it just coincidence that the same quote is found in an interview from 2006, about the need to tackle Ukaine's social problems?
"- I still believe I can provide means for common people in Ukraine to change their own lives. I can’t do it for them, but I can help reorganize things, marshal resources, and organize new development programs, and so on. People can then participate as they wish. They’ll have new opportunities that they do not have now. I’m mainly aiming at the poorest people in Ukraine who have no real opportunities to improve their lives and get out of poverty. Helping them will provide significant economic benefit to Ukraine, not least by creating a stronger economy and larger annual national budget – which in turn makes possible helping improve social and economic conditions for more people. "
In his 2013 article Polman says thiis about business and societal issues:
"When people talk about new forms of capitalism, this is what I have in mind: companies that show, in all transparency, that they are contributing to society, now and for many generations to come. Not taking from it.
It is nothing less than a new business model. One that focuses on the long term. One that sees business as part of society, not separate from it. One where companies seek to address the big social and environmental issues that threaten social stability. One where the needs of citizens and communities carry the same weight as the demands of shareholders."
We call this purpose driven business model 'People-Centered Economic Development. It was conceived in . It began with a question about the true purpose of business.
Economic inequality and its specific impact on those considered of lesser value, disabled orphans, was as big a problem as we could find.
The Death Camps, For Children series had described the places where children died regularly from manutrition and neglect while profit was made from government subsidies and the supply chain for prostitution, adoption and even body parts.
Business wasn't going there then and it isn't going there now.
"Ukraine, at this crossroads in economic development, holds great potential for hundreds of new enterprises that stand to make tremendous profits in undeveloped economic sectors and sub-sectors. The telecom sector, for just one example, is grossly underdeveloped and limited mainly by less than five oligarchs who are preventing development to protect present and future profits only for themselves personally. They employ, pay, and bribe friends and allies as needed to prevent, delay, and control telecom development solely for their own benefit. Social concern and social benefit are nowhere in their equations."
Getting into partnership with such greed driven enterprise, renders the gesture of ending quarterly shareholder reports all but meaningless.
Polman ploughs on regardless about purpose driven business::
"For too long business has sat on the sidelines, either unable or unwilling to be part of the solution to these systemic challenges. But this is now rapidly changing as the limitations of governments and international bodies to resolve them become ever more apparent, as consumers increasingly are demanding change, and as the cost of inaction starts to exceed the cost of action."
Changing the way we do business can address these problems say Polman. A point that concluded the P-CED white paper:
"Massive greed and consequent massive human misery and suffering do not have to be accepted as a givens, unavoidable, intractable, irresolvable. Just changing the way business is done, if only by a few companies, can change the flow of wealth, ease and eliminate poverty, and leave us all with something better to worry about. Basic human needs such as food and shelter are fundamental human rights; there are more than enough resources available to go around--if we can just figure out how to share. It cannot be "Me first, mine first"; rather, "Me, too" is more the order of the day."
Where were all thiese visionary business leaders when called on to support a cross sector collaboration for economic development in Ukraine?
The answer has to be that this was a place whiere business wasn't going to tread:
"This is not a research activity where many, if any, other people dared to participate. UNICEF was willfully blind to the matter because it was just too dangerous to bother to intercede Powerful interests remained entrenched with enforcers to make it dangerous. Jurists were correct, in my view. It was more a mafia operation than anything else, aimed at misappropriation and laundering of large money. That was perfectly congruent with how Ukraine operated before the revolution. USAID wanted nothing to do with it, nor would they fund any organizations or activists who might try. Some things could be done and some things could not be done. Helping these children was something that could not be done. So, I exposed it and made it the central focus and metric of Ukraine’s microeconomic development blueprint. In that context, it was far more difficult to ignore, dismiss, or argue about. For about six months, I really did not expect to survive. "
In the end he didn't. Niether did MP Mikhailo Syrota who spoke out about profiteering from child abuse in the belief that his immunity from prosecution protected him
It was the topic of Cultivating Empathy that gave me opportunity to describe our work on "A Marshall Plan for Ukraine" to Arianna Huffington, who like Paul Polman is a member of Richard Branson's B Team,
Three years on, its the Huffington Post who publish the story of an oligarch driven 'Marshall Plan' for Ukraine,
"French philosopher Louis Althusser, who would say that economics is never solely a matter of production, finance, and accounting -- these parameters always imply profound choices about the spirit of laws, about biopolitics and the health and possible suffering of human beings, and about one's idea of time, space, and the very nature of being.
It is for that reason, ladies and gentlemen, that for the next 200 days you will be called upon to make proposals and suggestions about Ukraine's finances, to be sure, but also about public health, about strengthening the rule of law, and about fighting the open wound, the leprosy, that is corruption."
The 2007 proposal for a 'Marshall Plan' is published under a Creative Commons 4.0 Licence
"This is a long-term permanently sustainable program, the basis for "people-centered" economic development. Core focus is always on people and their needs, with neediest people having first priority – as contrasted with the eternal chase for financial profit and numbers where people, social benefit, and human well-being are often and routinely overlooked or ignored altogether. This is in keeping with the fundamental objectives of Marshall Plan: policy aimed at hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. This is a bottom-up approach, starting with Ukraine's poorest and most desperate citizens, rather than a "top-down" approach that might not ever benefit them. They cannot wait, particularly children. Impedance by anyone or any group of people constitutes precisely what the original Marshall Plan was dedicated to opposing. Those who suffer most, and those in greatest need, must be helped first -- not secondarily, along the way or by the way. "