Hope in Corporate Partnerships?

A few years ago, after watching the documentary, The Corporation, I remember feeling that I no longer had any faith in democracy.   463px-Movie_poster_the_corporationThe Corporation, which is the most successful Canadian documentary of all time, is based on the book The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power by Joel Bakan.  The film and book explore the history and rise of corporate power in the western world –  from small businesses to the giant global powerhouses that we have today.   Throughout the film, the message is clear; corporations in North America have become enormous, and enormously powerful.  Corporations are patholical in their pursuit of profits, and corporations are doing serious and irreperable damage to our planet.  Perhaps the most disturbing outcome of the film is the knowledge that a large number of globe-spanning corporate giants have clearly become more powerful than our systems of government.  Corporate greed and power has grown so strong, that it has managed to manipulate constitutional laws in order to protect the interests and profits of these great giants.  This leads to serious questions of coruption of government and faith in democracy; concerns of whether democracy is serving the people or serving the interest of greedy corperate power houses.

A newer book by Peter Senge (and others), however, sheds a more positive outlook on corporate power.  Necessary RevolutionHis 2008 book, The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World portrays countless examples of a new kind of organizational partnership.   Giant corporations around the globe are partnering with NGOs (non-government organizations) and not for profit organizations in order to counter or eliminate the harm that they are doing to the planet.  At first, many of these partnerships are very shocking; as an example Coca-Cola is partnering with WWF (the World Wild-life Fund – not the wrestling federation).  Many large corporations have made such partnerships and serious commitments to work towards a sustainable future.  Nike, Google, Costco, Ikea, DuPont, BP, and countless others are forming partnerships with environmental and social justice organizations to ensure better stewardship of the earth and better livelihoods in the developing world.  Now, stop imagining – that world is already emerging.  These partnerships have already begun, and they are beginning to make headway in making substantial difference.  Amoung the most shocking of these partnerships may be the recently announced partnership between Walmart and the Suzuki Foundation.

cokewwfIt seems more logical for the world’s largest beverage manufacturer and bottler to team up with a wrestling federation than with the World Wild-life fund.  Selling beverages at wrestling events would generate revenue, but what does Coca-Cola have to gain from a partnership with the World Wild-life Fund?  Sustainability.  The hope for a sustainable future is what Coke has to gain.  The fact is that Coca-Cola is one of the world leaders in polluting our planet.  It has an enourmous carbon footprint, with manufacturing plants all over the planet.  More importantly, it is an emormous consumer of fresh water, one of our most precious resources.  By partnering with WWF, Coke is doing more than simply making a financial contribution, they are demonstrating a shift in corporate thinking.  This shift is an awakening to the realities that corporations have to face; the reality that current practices are unsustainable.  Coke, as one of the greatest consumers of fresh water on this planet, simply cannot sustain its current production.  This partnership is a realization that the company needs to change how it operates, and that it can benefit from the knowledge of leading NGOs like WWF.

walmart-logoWal-mart, Coca-cola, Costco, Ikea, Home-Depot, McDonalds, etc… these powerhouses aren’t suzuki_logogoing away any time soon.  There seems to be an acknowledgment by many of the leading non-profit organizations in the world of this fact, and a realization in essence that, “If you can’t beat them, then join them.”   Will the partnership between Coke and WWF result in sustainable water use, and health to watertables the world over?  Will a partnership between Wal-mart and the Suzuki Foundation result in sustainable transportation of goods around the planet?  This is a rather new development in the corporate world, and it is very early to see any significant outcomes.  However, there is hope in these partnerships, as they are steps in directions towards living sustainably.  HOPE.

Your thoughts are important.  It’s time to SPEAK UP.  What do you think?

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UPDATE:

This post is receiving significant traffic, often in the amount of several hundred reads each week.   Do me a favour.  Just leave a quick response, and let me know who you are and how you came across this article.  I’m curious to know who’s reading.  If you’d like to share your thoughts about the article, that would be great.

Thanks for reading,

– – –
Ryan

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2 Responses

  1. Ryan . . . great stuff and provocative. The challenge is to understand the formative influence schooling has had on our “corporate psyche.” What role has education and teacher education played in all of this and what if anything can we do about it? You just do not hear “teacher” and “education” in corporate lingo!

    Challenging times and questions interestingly; not truly answered. The concepts of “teacher” and “school” have not changed. As I wrote in “Senselessness: the Manifestation of Educational Practice” related to teacher education:

    to set out on a “historical journey of educational progress” current and future teacher educators need to grasp the gravity of preparing teachers for the future of the earth. While the idea may be simple we know it is most challenging. The resolution to the tension between our current reality and the vision of changing the way we “do” teacher education is as emotional as it is creative. (Pickard, 2009, p. 208)

    I am concerned that we have not yet understood the gravity of the situation. I guess the challenge to us both is to raise the stakes of educational practice. Now this is worth following up on.

  2. […] Hope in Corporate Partnerships? … 3,986 […]

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