Tag Archives: business

Can Marketing Ever Be A Force For Good?

Can marketing be good for society? Or is it just about lies and capitalism?

woman-hand-smartphone-laptop

Can marketing be a socially beneficial occupation? Image from Pexels, CC0 license.

Then and Now: My Relationship With Marketing
A year ago, when I was a third year student writing my dissertation, if you told me that in 2016 I’d be working in marketing and social media, I’d never have believed you. Continue reading

Earth Overshoot Day and Not-For-Profit Enterprise

I wrote this post for the Post Growth Institute and it was originally published here.

In 2015, 13 August is Earth Overshoot Day. The day marks the estimated calendar date when humanity’s demand on the planet’s ecological services (which produce renewable resources and assimilate wastes) outstrips what the Earth can supply. This means that for the rest of the year, we are taking more than is regenerated, operating in Overshoot. Last year, Earth Overshoot Day was August 19th. We first went into Overshoot in the late 1970s, and since then the day has crept ever earlier on the calendar. This means we are using the ecological resources of just over 1.5 Earths.

Meeting the challenge of providing for all humanity’s needs within the limits of what our Earth can provide will require a radical restructuring of the global economy. In this post I will discuss how a post-growth economy based around not-for-profit enterprise can help us get to One Planet Living. Continue reading

Unclaimed Carbon

I already knew that national carbon accounting does not include the emissions embedded in imported goods. Those emissions are attributed to the country that produces the goods. Which is why many post-industrial countries can claim to have reduced emissions, while pointing accusing fingers at China and other emerging economies that now make all our stuff. What I didn’t know until Naomi Klein’s fantastic new book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate enlightened me, is that the emissions from international shipping are not attributed to any country.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

Massive container ship. Creative Commons copyright.

Continue reading

Not-for-profit enterprise: A talk

So last week I was waxing lyrical about this talk I was about to go to, called “Is the post-growth economy already here?” by Donnie Maclurcan, from the Post Growth Institute. It was part of a UK-wide speaking tour, in promotion for a new book (How, On Earth?) by Donnie and one of the co-directors of the Institute, Jennifer Hinton.

The cover of How, on Earth?

The cover of ‘How, on Earth?’

So I went to the talk, and I really enjoyed it. Let me walk you through some of the key points, and the bits I thought were most exciting. You can also read the blurb for the talk, for some background, here.

Near the start of the talk, Donnie Maclurcan stated that we have two major global crises, which are completely interconnected.

One is the ecological crisis. The fact that each year we’re now using more resources than can be replenished, and creating more waste than can be assimilated. This is leading to widespread species loss, dangerous climate change, land degradation and the rest. As he’s the executive director of the Post Growth Institute it’s not surprising he doesn’t believe in the fantasy story of infinite economic growth.

The other crisis is spiralling financial inequality. He quoted the well-publicised but ever sickening statistic from Oxfam, that the world’s richest 85 people have the same combined wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion*.

The two are connected because rising inequality leads to over-consumption, through status envy and competition. And in a neoliberal economy where growth is prioritized above all else, consumption will be tightly culturally linked with the idea of success.  Because that’s what’s needed to keep the growth engine going.

Anyway, Maclurcan thinks the solution to the two problems is not loads of regulation, nor flashy brands of ‘creative capitalism’, but not-for-profit enterpriseContinue reading

How, on Earth?

I’m very much looking forward to attending a talk this Thursday, entitled Is the Post Growth economy already here? By Donnie Maclurcan, executive director of the Post Growth Institute. He’s coming to my city as part of a UK-wide tour promoting a new book he’s co-writing with Jennifer Hinton, co-director of the same Institute.

Cover of the forthcoming book

Cover of the forthcoming book

This book is called How, on Earth? Flourishing in a not-for-profit world by 2050, and will be published in April next year. You can pre-order it here. The book centres around the concept of the not-for-profit enterprise, which earns money to pay for its resources and to pay all employees a fair wage, but reinvests any profits straight back into its social cause, or into improving the enterprise, rather than letting them accrue to shareholders.

If you fail to see how a profit-less model could possibly be a good thing, you might need a bit of background. Continue reading

Business for the Steady State

Evening, lovely readers.

Sorry I haven’t had time to post very often lately, I’m in my second year of university now and it’s hotting up on the workload front. Anyway, here’s my next post in my ‘Transitioning to a Steady State’ mini series. In my last post I wrote about how individuals can help us to transition to a steady state. Now I’m going to write about the role of businessContinue reading

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

Urban Farming

For the first time in human history, over half of the global population live in cities*. This urbanization trend is continuing, with estimates that by 2030 the urban population could be five billion**. The staggering seven billion milestone we hit two years ago is just the start… The UN thinks we’ll reach at least nine billion before the global population starts to level out. Cities are currently grossly unsustainable and their resilience to shocks in the energy market, transport and logistics system is poor. A good way of dealing with these challenges is for cities to start producing some (and eventually most) of their own food. Where space is a scarce resource, we tend to build up into the sky. And that’s exactly what innovative company Sky Greens is doing in Singapore. Have a look at this video:

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

The vertical urban farm uses a hydraulic system. Not my image.

Resources:
http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/
**http://www.unfpa.org/pds/urbanization.htm

The 4 Day Week?

The standard work week in Britain is 38/40 hours long. In America, China and many other countries it’s even longer. We spend so much of our time in paid work because a) we need/want the money, b) our employer might not offer part-time or flexi-time roles and c) our economy is set up to maximise production. Production in the widest sense of the term, of course. We’re not just talking about factory work here – ‘production’ can mean production of the service you’re paid to deliver. Programming, counselling, cold-calling, whatever. You could also add d) because you love your job so much you don’t want to do anything else except sleep and commute. However, although it’s usual to feel at least some level of job satisfaction or even passion for your work, most fully employed people do find themselves rushing around, not having time for a social life or hobbies and being stressed and tired.

Stressed lady. Not my image.

Stressed lady. Not my image.

How would it be if we changed the normal work week, made it shorter?
The New Economics Foundation (nef) has published an article calling for a 21 hour week. That’s quite a jump. How about 30 hours?

There are so many reasons why a shorter work week would be beneficial to our economy, our society and the environment.

  • It would reduce unemployment. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, reduced working hours would create more jobs as the available work would effectively be shared among more employees. As we know, unemployment causes a multitude of problems so reducing it would go a long way towards reducing public costs and allowing people to lead wealthier and more fulfilled lives.
  • If accompanied by appropriate policies, it could slow down economic growth. If you’ve never heard of post-growth economics then I appreciate this point won’t make much sense – if you’re interested please see the Post-Growth section of this blog or this summary of the concept. For those of you familiar with steady-state or post-growth economics, you’ll understand that optimization rather than maximisation of productivity  would keep profits at a healthy, steady level. On the larger scale, this would encourage economic balance and stability rather than the boom-and-bust scenario which is inevitable when chasing the impossible dream of indefinite growth.
  • It would make people happier. Quite simply, most people would like some time off! While still holding down a steady job, people would be able to spend more quality time with their kids, get their social life back on track, even engage in a fun hobby or two. Particularly driven individuals might choose to spend the extra time learning more about their field of expertise or even volunteering.
  • It would reduce costs to the NHS. Overworking is one of the top causes of stress, and the vast majority of illnesses are caused or exacerbated by stress. Working an 8 hour day plus another hour or two travelling to and from work leaves precious little time for making and eating a healthy home cooked meal, exercising, and getting enough sleep. These three things are vital for good health so making the time for them is logically going to lead to healthier people and take the strain off doctors, psychiatrists and hospitals.
  • It would be good for the environment. Apart from the effect on economic growth, a shorter work week would also allow people the time to engage in greener activities that overworked people can’t seem to find the time for. For example: walking or cycling to work, cooking from scratch, gardening, repairing things instead or buying replacements, playing with your kids instead of fobbing them off with extra toys, making handmade gifts… All these activities are common sense in a decarbonising world, but they require that definitely renewable and yet scarce resource: time.
  • It’s politically viable. So many people would love this policy; it could be a real vote winner. This is particularly advantageous because many things that’d be great for sustainability just aren’t that popular. Like getting people to stop driving cars and buying tonnes of consumer goods, for example. We don’t need a paradigm shift or an attitude adjustment or a revolution to agree to a 4 day week – this could be implemented now, and it would help lay the groundwork for the transition to a steady-state society. My second point on this list about slowing down economic growth could be left out if need be, as the other benefits are reason enough to consider this policy.

I think it’s important to note that nef concedes that a work-time reduction should be accompanied with other policies, namely raising the minimum wage and progressive taxation. It would be nonsensical to introduce a 4 day week without any other changes because although high earners would likely benefit hugely from the time off, workers on minimum or low wages would be pushed into poverty. The work-life balance is all about people engaging in enough paid work to earn a decent living, while leaving enough time for the most important things in life: family, friends and personal development. It is definitely not about stopping people meeting their needs through work. If we’re seriously considering a shorter, healthier, more sustainable work week, then we need to make sure the minimum wage is high enough for 30 (or however many) hours to equate to a decent living wage.

In that case, we could be taking a huge step towards sustainability and boosting wellbeing, public health and social cohesion all in one fell swoop.

Not my image.

On Jobs and Employment

The thing people love most about economic growth is that it creates jobs, and prevents existing jobs from being cut. Similarly, the worst thing about recession is that people lose their jobs.  This is totally reasonable, seeing as in this world we need a paying job to get by, not to mention the fact that many people work because they want to – regardless of the pay.

Not my image.

Not my image.

Because we’re used to growth providing jobs, there seems to be a lot of fear and doubt surrounding post-growth economics because people are scared that a non-growing economy will mean widespread unemployment. Happily, this is a total myth.

In the must-read book Enough is Enough, Dietz and O’Neill outline two great policies that would go a long way towards securing full employment with meaningful and constructive jobs. They credit ecological economists Martin Pullinger and Blake Alcott with coming up with these ideas.

1. Work-Time Reduction

The idea here is that worker productivity per hour has been gradually increasing for several decades now, due to technological progress, refining techniques and better organization. This leaves two options: either produce the same amount of goods or services in less time, or spend the same time producing more. Living in a growth-focused economy as we do, it’s been a no-brainer to choose the second. However, in a steady state economy, it’d make perfect sense to choose the first. This would mean employees would get the same salary, but would gradually reduce their working hours. This would eventually leave us with a 4 day work week.
Sharing the available work would mean everyone works a little less and fewer people are out of a job.

2. Guaranteed Jobs

Governments go crazy trying to squeeze more and more growth out of our economies, in the effort to avoid unemployment. As this isn’t 100% effective, they also have to fork out cash for unemployment benefits. The indirect costs of unemployment are also significant, as some people turn to crime if they can’t earn a living within the law. The Guaranteed Jobs policy ”appoints the state as the employer of last resort” (Enough is Enough, p.134). This means that the state would employ people to complete useful public works such as gardening, cleaning, caring and building for minimum wage. This would reduce unemployment directly. The cost of wages would be offset by the gains from the reduced unemployment.

A combination of these policies would be very progressive and would achieve almost full employment . Within a steady state economy, the goal would be that everyone within the working age with good health (apart from those caring for young children) would have a secure and meaningful job.

I’ve always found it gobsmacking that there is an unemployment issue at all in a world with so much work to be done! But part of the issue is that lots of important work – such as habitat restoration and local food production – simply doesn’t offer many paying jobs. So many jobs that are so important and offer such great job satisfaction are only voluntary based, because there isn’t enough money to pay workers! This has got to change! We need to re-arrange the business world, so that doing good is profitable – or at least financially viable in a not-for-profit model. In a steady state economy, useful work will be paid with a decent living wage.

Along the same vein, many people today have very dull and essentially pointless jobs that do not offer a feeling of being truly useful to society. Everyone knows someone who loathes their job and dreads Mondays. In an economy where maximising production and consumption is turned on its head, and throughput of resources is limited, these soulless jobs will not exist. But full employment – or very close – is still possible through implementation of the two policies above, within a holistic framework of other steady state policies.