Saturday, January 14, 2017

In Memoriam: Homage to Martin Luther King, Jr.

“One of the great liabilities of history is that all too many people fail to remain awake through great periods of social change.  Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.  But today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and face the challenge of change.  The large house in which we live demands that we transform this world-wide neighborhood into a world-wide brotherhood.  Together we must learn to live as brothers or together we will be forced to perish as fools.” 

“We must work passionately and indefatigably to bridge the gulf between our scientific progress and our moral progress.  One of the great problems of mankind is that we suffer from a poverty of the spirit which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance.  The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.” 

“Every man lives in two realms, the internal and the external.  The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion.  The external is that of complex devices, techniques, mechanisms and instrumentalities by means by which we live.  Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external.  We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.”

-        Martin Luther King, Jr.  Where Do We Go From Here:  Chaos or Community, pg. 172-173. 1967.

Social responsibility – today’s sterilized proxy for morality – has become a euphemism for the celebration of not doing what shouldn’t have been done in the first place.  In a world defined by Kellogg School of Management’s Alfred Rappaport and GE’s Jack Welch’s perversion of “shareholder value” – the notion that enterprise should seek to maximize the distribution of wealth from effort to the rentier of capital – it’s no surprise that exceptional behavior is to acquiesce to the notion that enterprise may not harm at the margins and be thus acknowledged as “responsible”.  Gone is a standard that presumes that, at its core, human endeavor could be built with an exoenergetic-moral structure in which accretive human value is the core mandate for endeavors and that premium non nocere (Do No Harm) is the standard rather than the marginal exception. 

Together with my colleagues Bob Kendall, Charles Way, Lee Evans, Pam Cole, Colleen Martin, Aditya Bindra, and Hayden Luse, my inaugural efforts to form America’s first large cap Diversity Fund have been quite informative.  We’ve encountered numerous groups who trade on diversity as a moniker for inclusion.  I was intrigued when I read the criteria for Thomson Reuters’ Diversity & Inclusion Index.  Diversity & Inclusion scores favor companies with: a) fewer discrimination, harassment, wage or other published controversies; b) diverse employment meaning percentage of women employed and gender and ethnic board diversity; c) existence of policies for inclusion of flexible working hours and environments for persons with family, health or disability needs; and, d) inclusive training programs.  All 24 variables are laudable and basic.  But at no point does the D&I Index achieve a value accretive social outcome to advance humanity.  It simply states that companies would be well served to recognize humans as humans (tragically necessary, but not value accretive).  Now, the great news is that the Thomson Reuter’s D&I Index has modeled performance indicating the top 100 companies that score highly on their rating also out-perform their large cap broad market index.  In short, being human outperforms operating in callous disregard for humans.

And this is an important step forward.  I applaud Thomson for using their platform to promote humanity.  On September 29, 2016 I wrote a post Racism in America – Let JusticeRoll Down.  In it I discussed our formation of an investment fund that would carry forward our long-standing work around getting serious about racial dissonance in America.  What we’re seeking to do with our PB Diversity product is to invest in companies that are building Diversity owned and managed businesses.  And as our fund manager itself is also diversity owned and managed (women and minorities across the organization), we are living the same values we promote. 

We’re taking a step beyond the notion that the absence of bad behavior is a cause for celebration or accolade.  Our commitment is to invest in companies who source at least 10% of their supply chain from minority owned companies.  This acknowledges that value – to have its direct impact on the social challenges we face – must flow beyond discretionary employment and must include flowing capital to businesses which in turn employ diverse people and serve traditionally economically disadvantaged communities.  In short, we want the purpose for which we live to be more important than the means which we accumulate.


As we mark the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his notion that humanity needs to find a way to end the scourge of corporate sanctioned racism, it’s worth noting that U.S. Obama Administration’s EXIM Bank supported Exxon-Mobil LNG project in Papua New Guinea’s death toll rose again this week.  The Melanesian landowner’s issue – the non-payment of royalties due them by Exxon.  And while millions on social media “stood” with Standing Rock, there’s no Facebook campaign, no sit-ins, no public conversation about these deaths of real people.  For what reason?  Because they’re too far away to count and they’re invisible.  

1 comment:

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