Saturday, September 4, 2010

Integral Accounting: Well-Being – Part 7 of 7

…the capacity for any person or ecosystem to function at their optimal level where conditions are suitable for a person to be at liberty to fully engage in any activity or social enterprise entirely of their choosing as and when they so choose

Our current economic models abandoned humanity in the 18th century. While we take great consolation in the celebrated end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade we seem to conclude that slavery has been eradicated because it’s not a fixture in proximity to where we live. While we celebrate the more visible contribution of women in professional roles (now surpassing their male counterparts in absolute terms in many fields) we seem to conclude that gender discrimination is an anachronism. We don’t have our child labor sweatshops blighting our neighborhoods and pronounce public programs which will “leave no child behind.” Our multi-lateral organizations proclaim that we will “end poverty”, “empower women”, and defend the “rights of children”.

However, thinly veiled behind our proclamations is reality. When the military recruits most of its combat enlistees from economically disadvantaged communities promising a pathway to economic and educational benefits, are we really seeing free choice? When we see a world in which single mothers (a growing percentage of child care-givers) have to extend their work hours to make ends meet costing them personal and family engagements, are we really closer to a gender honoring society? When our children are fast-tracked into training and conditioning programs (marketed under the labels of head-starts) at the expense of spending time with grandparents, parents and friends, are they more likely to be equipped to choose lives of personal and community citizenship? In a world where philanthropy and multi-lateral non-governmental organizations rely on the largesse of those who gained their wealth through exploitative consumption, are we closer to ending poverty, oppression and injustice or are we placating what’s left of a conscience?

If you are reading this blog (first of all, congratulations for sticking with the series) I’ve got some challenging news for you. If you share an Integral Accounting world view and seek to live in a more rational human community, you will likely need to take stock of where you are in the system and get ready for some adjustments. If we really want everyone to have opportunities to engage in a world at their optimal level, we will need to find a path to suitability and modesty in a way that is foreign to many.

And herein lies the deepest challenge between US and transformed consciousness. And, mind you, we’re not alone in our predilection, in expediency, to conclude that it’s simply too much work thus reverting to the complacency that leaves our headaches for future generations. After all, when Eleanor Roosevelt, Rene Cassin, Charles Malik, Peng Chun Chang set out in 1948 to get the world to agree that all humans “are born free and equal in dignity and rights,” they thought this concept would take off. Their vision, which launched what became the seven core human rights treaties (International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD, 1969); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR, 1987); International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (HRC, 1976); Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1982); Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT, 1987); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC, 1990); and, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW, 2004)). However, in its most recent report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is sanguine about the fact that many States are neither reporting nor addressing the conventions’ adherence. Backlog in complaints extend beyond two years in several instances. Precisely how long can one be hungry, homeless, enslaved, trafficked or oppressed before “backlog” becomes a euphemism for “we don’t care”?

You see, in a scarcity-based, mortality-incentivized, debt-ridden consumer industrial model the world accepts that we’re “doing what we can” with the resources optioned from national governments and philanthropic sources. However we’re missing the deepest point in Integral Accounting. Supporting Well-Being isn’t a nice-to-have luxury to be supported by discretionary largesse derived from profits. Well-Being is a TOP LINE INVESTMENT. Well-Being is about an ecosystem in which we operate – not the moralistic clean up operation after we’ve bankrupted our land, communities and fellow human beings. Double-bottom line – NONSENSE! By the time we get to the bottom line, we’ve already acquiesced and the line between charity and condescension is terribly blurry. We need to wake up to the fact that there is NO profit in a model which forced another human being or any other component of our shared ecosystem to suffer in silence so we could pretend that we profited.

At this point it’s relevant to point out that most of what passes for “conventional wisdom” in how business is done is propagated and manipulated by the spokespersons for less than 1% of all enterprises on earth – publicly listed companies. The vast majority of enterprises on Earth do a better job at approximating Integral Accounting because they realize that they’re only as good as the team that makes them tick. And even giant firms often have Integral Accounting in their earlier history. The great Dutch bank – Rabobank – began as a financing cooperative between farmers and bakers.

Which brings us to an interesting point. It is quite conceivable that our biggest stumbling block towards a more viable, suitable world is our insatiable delusion that “bigger” and “growth” are metrics of success. Ironically, every possible data point in nature tells us that this proposition is ludicrous yet somehow we maintain the insanity that “growth is good”. History shows us that bigger and well-being are not frequent companions. In fact, I suspect you’d be hard-pressed to find a single instance where the bigger an enterprise got, the more well-being was evidenced in its ecosystem. I’m reminded of a large company which is consistently rated as one of the best places to work in America but, interestingly has an employee divorce rate over twice the local average. It may be a great place to work but something about the ecosystem implies that it’s not quite as great a place to live and love!

What does TOP LINE Well-Being look like? For starters, it means that the entire ecosystem in which an endeavor is undertaken sits at a table (with full, equal, and informed transparency) and organizes the endeavor aligned with the principles set forth in this series. Rather than asking the question, “What percentage of the workforce will be hired locally?” it commits to insuring that all parties engage in whatever level of an interaction they wish to engage. And guess what. If you’re exploring for natural gas in Papua New Guinea, this means that you will train brilliant local talent to work alongside geologists and engineers so that they have equivalent participation. If you’re planning to extract rare earth metals out of coal fly ash, it means you engage the children of miners who died from black lung and have them involved with deploying technology with a conscience. If you’re expanding an investment banking analyst back-office programming shop in India, you make sure that your recruits spend as much time in New York and London as the MBAs from Wharton, Chicago, and Darden. If you’re looking to expand business into Mongolia, you start with an investment in re-engaging the nomadic yak herders who saw 20 million head of livestock die in the icy winter of 2009. If you’re building a publishing business to promote a service industry in the US, you make sure that your staff is part of your success from day one with great housing, access to schools, and all the benefits of life. TOP LINE Well-Being is an explicit recognition that every endeavor is made possible by factors well beyond the control or influence of a single person or entity. And if ANY part of the value chain is placed under stress and fails to benefit in a suitable fashion, the entire value chain is placed at risk.

I’m pretty sure that Well-Being will not be achieved by conventions, declarations, and rights. I’m pretty sure that Well-Being won’t be legislated or imposed. In fact, I suspect that we won’t get closer to Well-Being by launching the next campaign to end whatever is the scourge du jour. No, I am certain that Well-Being will be recognized when we see ourselves and our surroundings for what they are and then follow an impulse that aligns our momentary appreciation with the sentiment evoked by those surroundings.

I sat at a rooftop dinner in Manhattan this week with a 28 year old media professional. This young lady was deeply engaged in a conversation that swirled around the globe touching on issues ranging from the environment, to economics, to politics, to intrigue. When I raised the topic of the media’s silence on issues of injustice around the world, I saw something change. She said, “I wish that there was a way to tell people and make them care but, at the end of the day, it’s all about business – if you’re story doesn’t sell something, nobody cares.” Her face darkened as she said this and she found a recess in her being somewhere which longed for a different narrative. “Well, that will change,” I replied.

So, here’s the deal. Having conducted business for almost two decades by practicing an ever-deepening understanding of Integral Accounting I know that I’ve learned a lot. I also know I’ve got a lot left to learn. But I thought the perfect way to end this series is by offering you something in exchange for your taking time to be part of this effort. If any of you would like to have a detailed Integral Accounting audit or brainstorming session for your company, organization, or group, I’ll commit to doing a one day session in exchange for you evidencing at least two dimensions of integral value exchange with third parties. If you come to Charlottesville to be my guest, you’ll also find out that I’m a good cook – but that will be a different blog! Love and Light! Dave

1 comment:

  1. David, you really are a light in the dark. May your sparks fly high and wide!


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave