01.12.12 Appealing to Values and Innovating Profit Perception

Wouldn’t you think if you had several hundred employees threaten mass suicide in protest of working conditions, you might pay attention to say… working conditions?

Well, that’s exactly what happened at the Foxconn electronics manufacturing plant inWuhan, China last week.

As reported by a variety of sources, including PC Magazine, workers claimed they did not receive promised compensation after they were transferred toWuhan from other facilities. The workers also complained about living conditions in the company town which amounts to a factory farm. Instead of selling eggs or pullets, however, the commodity at Foxconn is labor. Cheap  labor. Cheap, compliant labor sustained under dehumanizing and emotionally isolating conditions.

Because Foxconn efficiently serves up cheap electronic components to such customers as Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Sony and Microsoft, we must wonder, at what cost comes profitability? What is profit after all? And how do we contribute though our consumerism to globally failing systems?

Can profitability only be described within the narrow view of currency? Isn’t a civilized society capable of inventing the micro-chip beyond dehumanizing others’ crafts and skills in order to trade it competitively in service to shareholder earnings?

Does human life have a value beyond how many components a person can assemble?

Certainly it does.

But, even if we adopted a narrow view that monetary profits were the only profits worthy of pursuit, might they not be better maximized within a balanced environment inclusive of meeting essential human needs of community, recreation, environmental integrity, physical and emotional health and welfare, and personal security?

Of course… particularly given that studies have supported the common sense idea that a happy, relaxed worker is, at the end of the day, a more productive worker.

Back in the days of global textile competition, Asian workers successfully labored to out-compete British workers to the point of denying family duties and even personal hygiene. Women and children labored fourteen to sixteen hours a day behind sewing machines in order to more cheaply produce garments for a textile hungry and burgeoning world. Of course, Britain kept up quite a competitve pace relying on similar methods.

The idea of big-business pursuing regulatory, environmental and social conditions strictly in favor of its own growth isn’t new.  But, by now it seems we should realize such a pursuit is not only ethically abhorrent, but environmentally, socially, politically and economically unsustainable.

Yet, such an attitude prevails. In our modern era, America’s manufacturing and even service base has been bled nearly dry from outsourcing as corporations seek ever cheaper labor, more lax regulation and complimentary operational environments.

Unfortunately, this often comes at the expense of worker and environmental health. Foxconn helps illustrate that mindset. Of course, so does the energy sector, as Chinese and other foreign-owned companies foul our water resources in order to deplete America’s fossil fuel reources for transport to hungry Chinese and other foreign markets.

Another illustration: American’s political system, ruled by two predominant parties funded by the unchecked infusion of Corporate interest – and that’s “interest” with a double meaning folks, if you get my drift.

Is this the new model of production, consumption and even ethical representation? …A race to the bottom, depleting not only the Earth’s resources, but human resources in the pursuit of only a single value? The value of gold and greenbacks?

For example: Ron Paul, just took 23% of theNew Hampshire primary as a Republican. He wasn’t always a Republican. He once ran for the US Presidency as an Independent, but recognized the limitations of such a position given the rigidly fortified and incredibly exclusive framework of American politics and an ADD-afflicted media.

The guy couldn’t get a break let alone 20 seconds of media interest until he switched parties and joined the Republican horde. Now, at least he can win a bit of air time, albeit sometimes begrudgingly. How is it Newt is lavished with ten minutes to an hour of what amounts to tongue wagging over his absurdly controversial run for President… but Paul elicits only looks of sheer disbelief from reporters as he delivers a speech to a crowd of supporters? …As if the reporter can scarcely believe they have to utter his name, let alone discuss his achievements and political position without breaking into a guffaw.

It’s as if some of these reporters have bought into their own hype and assumption that this man shouldn’t be taken seriously. Perhaps, sometimes mainstream media does spend a bit too much time listening only to one another and not the story.

Can’t Americahave a third party that isn’t beholden to opposing party platforms which often contradict their own assumptions and seek only to shell out support to corporate donors? Can’t we handle diversity? Adaptation? Growth?

As illustrated by a glaringly dictatorial Foxconn, our own depleted manufacturing base and an imploding political system… is there no other value worth recognizing and nurturing besides money?

I mean, how worthy is the value of money if – as sole priority – it contributes to the destruction of everything around it? Wasn’t this lesson learned in the past? Don’t spiritual leaders remind us of this lesson all the time? I’m not, of course, referring to those who call themselves spiritual leaders while operating a hotline between your bank account and their television show.

Sadly, the assumption prevails that concern, honesty, liberty, respect, fairness, human dignity and environmental preservation are not values worth tending.  Even more disturbing is the idea that they are independent of one another and utterly extrinsic to the value of money.  As if money does and should exist in a vacuum.

Even though, culturally, we may be taught to believe that money rules all and is exclusive of any other value, nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth.

When we try to operate a system – a political system, an economic system, a social system independent of all other values besides money, we subject that system to a very potent corrosive, and quickly strain its capacity to serve.

System weakness is the greatest indicator of imbalance and the need to fortify. Shoving more money in the hole will not solve that problem when money is the corrosive.

Healthy systems find their strength and flexibility through the infusion of diverse values and mechanisms of adaptation.

The implementation of innovation, while often unfamiliar and therefore frightening, tends to support change. Needed change. Guided and productive change. Change that begets adaptation. That’s because, as often noted, need is frequently the mother of all inventions. That means system-or component-failure tends to give rise to the need for adaptive management.

Those with holistic vision can recognize this need in advance of system collapse or component obsolescence. This far-seeing implementation of adaptation can create smoother transitions to changing demands. It positions innovation as a solution, and therefore lends stability to its application.

When it comes to a healthier, more sustainable planet, we depend upon Earth’s systems to sustain our own survival. Increasing pollution coupled with our prevailing and incentivized patterns of consumption and waste only challenge Earth’s capacity to sustain itself, let alone sustain it’s living and interdependent populations.

These conditions call on us to implement truly green practices in order to help mitigate our impact to life-sustaining, bio-dependent systems such as air sheds and water sheds.

Many business owners, from the small mom-and-pop operation to multi-national corporations may recognize the need to innovate operations toward more sustainable practices, but believe it is economically prohibitive and could position them disadvantageously within their markets.

Today, Shel Horowitz, author of “Guerilla Marketing Goes Green” is visiting with us to discuss ways in which commercial operations of any size can take steps to help ensure going green becomes a positive, productive and profitable investment.

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Please note: In the spirit of respectful, sincere debate, In-Depth Perception embraces controversy and welcomes diverse opinion. As such, the comments of the host (Lisa Bracken) do not necessarily reflect the opinions of guests of the radio program, guests of this blog, nor WordPress, its affiliates or sponsors, and vice versa.

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Shel Horowitz, Author: “Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green”

Shel’s Website: www.greenandprofitable.com