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Imagine a world where businesses cared about people

 

· Shally Sarawagi

For the longest time we have debated poverty and income-disparity. We cant seem to understand why most people are extremely poor while a select few are so rich that they eat fish eggs and purchase islands at the drop of a hat.

Every model to alleviate poverty seems to have failed. Socialism, Communism, Capitalism - its hard to say if one is worse than the other.

However, in today’s largely capitalistic world, the answer is pretty straightforward - 

1) Big business want to maximise their already rich shareholders’ profits, so they cut costs, which means they pay their already poor workers as low as possible. The poor get stuck in this ‘Vicious Cycle of Poverty’ - as fancily quoted by one economist- generation after generation. When you make less money your kids don’t go to school, they don’t have skills or education so they end up exactly like you.

2) Big business largely control governments, whose policies serve their interests as opposed to that of the poor masses.

The answer to poverty alleviation seems pretty straightforward then - Corporations Giving A Shit.

Lets imagine a world where businesses actually cared about communities. We created a model and based our business on it. We like to call it ‘The Empowerment Cycle’ (sound fancy much?)!

Its pretty self explanatory, but ill go ahead and explain anyway.

  • We have a community thats poor, uneducated, unskilled, unemployed who fall victim to different forms of abuse. Company Unicorn starts a training program to train people in whatever skill it is they need in their industry. (Read about the DreamWeavers training program here).
  • These workers acquire the skill and start making a living, whether it is by working with Company Unicorn or seeking a job elsewhere. Unicorn pays them fair wages and provides decent working conditions.
  • These workers have children, but they don’t have money to send their kids to a good school, as they might have debts to pay, need healthcare and such. So Company Unicorn starts a scholarship program and helps all of their workers’ children get an education, along with mentoring and counselling programs. (Learn about the Sarawagi Scholarship Program here).
  • These kids grow up Educated, Enriched, Empowered, ready to pull their families out of the poverty cycle.
  • Company Unicorn's employee turnover dips, worker loyalty surges, everyones happy.

Sound like wishful thinking? Thats because it probably is, given the way businesses work today. They will do anything to cut costs, let alone spend on programs like these.

But we the people have more power than we think. For the longest time big business have lobbied with governments, its time to start lobbying with big business. How, you ask?

Ask the company you work for how much they pay their blue collar worker, push for education, training and community development programs. Does the worker in China manufacturing spare parts get the health benefits you enjoy working at an office? Are his working conditions half as decent as yours? Companies offer all kinds of perks to attract talent. Talent need to start lobbying for change in the way corporations run their business. If you work for a small or medium sized company this may be easier than if you work for a big corporation with multiple layers of bureaucracy and most of the supply chain outsourced overseas.

As consumers and shareholders, we need to start demanding information on working conditions and supply chains.

Reading the news of a collapsed garment factory and shaking our head is not enough. If we want businesses to care, first we need to care enough to raise our voices.

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