Transcommercial Enterprise

World Changing: The Transcommercial Enterprise.

An interesting article about how the nature business is shifting to incorporate ethics as a core part.

Some key points:

“But SRI [Socially Responsible Investment] is only part of the equation. Increasingly, large institutional procurement contracts ñ from governments, labor unions, hospitals, schools and universities ñ are predicated on social or environmental performance standards: they won’t buy paper unless it’s recycled, won’t buy cars unless they emit less pollution, won’t buy uniforms made with sweatshop labor, etc. Taken together, these are multi-trillion dollar markets. The NGO sector aloneis thought to be generate $1 trillion a year and employ at least 19 million people. That sort of buying-power, combined with new standards, is itself a huge market disruption.”

I strongly believe in the power of socially responsible investment (also known as “Ethical Investing”) as a way to encourage ethical practices. My superannuation is invested with Australian Ethical for this reason. Australia’s superannuation funds are one of the largest sources of investment capital in this country. A little bit of thought about where to direct those funds can have a big impact on business.

“Corporations can now build fairly intimate relationships with customers. We all know that corporations are honing their marketing research down to us as individuals, amassing data on our preferences and buying patterns, trying to anticipate our needs. But we don’t often think about how this truth extends two ways: we’re more and more informed about the goods we buy and the companies which make them. Intimacy goes both ways.”

This is an interesting view, and not one I am 100% convinced about. There is that whole William Gibson thang about information outing itself or being outed, which to an extent is true. However, there is still far too much secrecy within corporations, and a distinct lack of accountability. There needs to be a seismic shift in how business is done before the type of intimacy described in the article is a reality. It is, of course, a worthy goal, but not inevitable.

“The Tech Bloom is redefining our economic landscape, and it’s barely just begun. Distributed collaboration produces better results ñ any company which lines itself up against it, instead of aligning with it, is toast. But the Tech Bloom requires those corporations who would benefit from collaboration to act as collaborators themselves, rather than owners.”

I like this term: “Tech Bloom”. I’m seeing it in my job, and definitely feeling it as an activist and a technologist who has interest in social outcomes. It is a different way of doing business (and politics for that matter), with huge potential, but it is not without it’s pitfalls. People still need to pay the rent, which means alternative business models are required to enable the tech bloom to continue. There will be some pain before the new models of doing business find their feet. People will lose money, businesses and livelihoods trying to work this out.

“Transcommercial enterprises won’t see doing the right thing as good PR or a desirable goal… if it doesn’t interfere too much with profits. Instead, they’ll see doing the right thing *as* the path to profits. If there’s a conflict between doing the right thing and doing the profitable thing, that just means that there’s a market opportunity for figuring out how to make the right thing more profitable.”

Interesting take. I think that this kind of thinking – seeing the challenges as an opportunity – is sorely lacking in government. And also in large companies, companies that would have the cash to throw at finding alternative ways of doing things. Both the public and private sector need to wake up and start putting some real energy into doing things better, working towards doing things right.

I see huge untapped market potential for environmentally friendly and socially responsible business ideas. Sure they’re hard to bring to fruition, but there’s your competitive advantage and barrier to entry in one. Put the hard yards in and get ahead of the pack. People are looking for solutions. Collectively, we need to provide some answers.

This is, I suppose, what I think the answer to my previous point is. If collectively we can come up with innovative solutions to social and environmental problems, there is a real opportunity for entrepreneurs to actually bring the ideas to market. If there’s one thing the open source community hasn’t done well that’s get things polished for the broad market. The same will be true for these technologies once they start to mature and come to fruition.

“Shortsighted multinational corporations with outdated thinking have hardly been driven from the field. Instead, they are counter-attacking, trying to use captured government agencies to regulate away innovation and trade agreements to break the back of citizen power.”

This is so true – see record labels for a prime example, or oil companies with the US and Australian government. Can anyone tell me, honestly, why our tax dollars are being spent on research for new fossil fuel technologies?

The government has invested AUD$60 million in the Stuart shale oil project. Compare this with the AUD$1 million spent on investigating hydrogen as an alternative power source. I’m sure that money is spent on R&D around renewables, but it seems to be a fraction of what is required to see Australia competing in a global renewable energy market.