CF Wealth exists within society, within the planet. To assume that the c only way of distributing goods and services to meet people's needs is i g through capitalism - that you need the profit motive to do that - ignores the idea that you could have any other system.
JP Don't we need markets to deliver goods and services?
CF I believe that a more co-operative system could meet people's ¡^ needs in a more egalitarian way. We need to be putting our energy into ¡2 thinking about the principles by which our society should be organized. £ The idea that is coming strongly through the media and through CR is « that you don't have to think about these things - corporations share your values and your principles. And that really frustrates efforts to empower -g people.
JP You are implying a level of political awareness on the part of these § companies that is miles from what I have discovered! It is with great •¡5 difficulty that I can get any of these companies to talk about capitalism. "g Most of what they are doing is being done by default.
CF It's not that I think there's some secret club somewhere ...!
JP Maybe there is! (laughs)
CF But it is a strategy that evolves. Shell found CR to be a very effective mechanism and then it was adopted by other companies. Compare Shell to McLibel. McDonald's took out the biggest law suit in UK legal history against a couple of random people and their leaflets. But Shell ran a million-pound PR campaign: 'get people to engage', 'we want to hear', 'say whatever you want to about us'. Which was the most successful strategy? This is how CR evolved. I don't think that somebody sat down and wrote the whole project. Well, maybe the PR people! (laughs)
JP OK, but follow that logic through. Just say that all the different campaigns against Nestlé (which I think have actually been pretty effective) had such a profound impact that the company decided to completely change its product portfolio - to get rid of formula milk. Would you be satisfied with that? Or would you say that the whole company has to cease to exist because you just don't want multinationals in the world?
CF In that multinationals exist to concentrate wealth and power - no, they have no place in a just world. The structure is the problem, and so we need to find alternative ways of structuring things.
JP Every single survey tells you that, absolutely, people care about sweatshops and worry that their purchases might be adding to the exploitation of people elsewhere in the world. Does that mean that they change the way they buy clothes? A little bit. Does it mean that they want to restructure the whole clothes industry in the Western world? Not on your bloody life!
CF People do behave differently as consumers than they do as citizens. But climate change is a crux point at which we have to do things right or we are fucked. It requires an awful lot of people agitating, not just adjusting to the structures that exist.
JP The difficulty is persuading government to be more proactive. If you look at the speeches that have come out of the UK Government, we have got this huge disconnect between a rhetorical understanding of what the problem is and a policy delivery process which is pathetically inadequate.
But here's a question for you: the Business Environment Programme has a 'corporate leaders group' made up of the chief execs of 14 companies. Over the last two years it has been lobbying government to increase regulation to enable those companies to do a better job on climate change. This is the first time I know of a group of leading companies saying to government: you are failing in your job, which is to create markets, or structure markets so that wealth creators - which is what I like to call them, rather than pernicious parasites on the face of the earth ...
CF Wealth concentrators!
JP (laughs) . so that business can get on and do a better job for the planet. Now I expect that you are going to say that this is just bullshit, this initiative is worthless.
CF I don't know, but I suspect that it is. Because these companies aren't in any way able to act altruistically. They have to be pursuing the best interests of their corporation, which I don't think is ever going to be in the best interest of society.
JP But eventually it must be.
JP Because there is no difference between the stakeholders of a company, including its shareholders, and society. Ultimately companies cannot work in societies that are imploding. They can't make money!
CF They can work in societies that are stable and also oppressive, unjust and unsustainable.
JP For a while. But that won't last long. The interests of society and the interests of corporations must converge eventually. I think you have to allow the oil, transport and aviation companies the possibility of a journey. Nobody has it in their power to stop them doing what they do because people want to buy what they produce. When someone goes and
fills up their car - who actually is responsible for those emissions? I 0 don't think it is the oil company, I think it is the person who owns the J car and goes and fills it up with petrol. The need to drastically reduce 3 CO2 emissions is a new reality for many companies. We cannot just go F
after them! So I am interested in the efforts that BP and Shell are making c towards alternative energy. 9
CF I think partly what they are relying on is that they will get the patent on something that is fundamental to the way that society is organ-H ized in the future, so that they will have a monopoly on that system of '<2 producing energy.
JP And there is a problem in that?
CF Yes! Our future sustainability is being ransomed out to corpora-£ tions now.
JP But where else would research come from? If governments are not going to fund programmes for cutting-edge technologies then we have
-o to rely on the big companies to do it.
CF But companies are also relying on consumption being as great in § the future. And that is not sustainable. We do not have the renewable •¡5 resources to keep consuming the amount we are now.
JP What if we did have enough renewable energy for nine billion people to consume at current levels with no damage to the physical environment?
CF Then they would have to go without food and water. We are hitting limits to growth in so many areas! That is one of the fundamental problems with capitalism. It relies on the increased consumption of all these resources. The forests and the fisheries and all the other renewable resources are running out, it is not just about carbon dioxide.
JP I couldn't agree more. Not a bad point to end on!
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