I am back!
This long radio silence was due to the US trip Colombe and I took last week to promote Atlas across the pond. In our week-long streak in NYC and Washington DC, we had the opportunity to meet and pitch Equitism and our strategy to Atlas members, donors, activists, politicians, and old & new partners (here are some cool pics of the trip). Bottom line? We got a very positive, motivating response, and we cannot wait to restart traveling in 2022 to spread our ideas to many more countries!
Now, back to business. Before our trip, in this newsletter, we discussed taxation and fiscal responsibility in an Equitist economy. Today, I'd like to tackle one of the most challenging problems: how to make business equitable. Let's do this!
A NEW WAY TO MAKE BUSINESSES WORK FOR ALL
Business Equity is one of the essential topics humanity will have to tackle in this coming decade. Following the digitization of the economy that made it borderless, our ability to launch new businesses and grow them exponentially is unprecedented.
On one side, this is excellent news: businesses drive innovation, create occupation, and can bring well-being. Without pharmaceutical companies, the speedy development of COVID-19 vaccines would have been impossible. On the flip side, businesses are driven by profit, rarely hand in hand with the public good. Indeed, the unwillingness of major pharmaceutical companies to wave IP and tech rights for the duration of the pandemic, to low and middle-income economies is the reason for which we are seeing a situation of vaccine apartheid, a rise in variants, and why advanced economies are administering COVID-19 boosters jabs while only 7% of the population in poorer nations had access to vaccines at all. This, and the inability of some heads of states (mainly from the EU) to do what is right and approve a TRIPS waiver at the WTO. This eternal struggle has characterized human societies since the early days of capitalism and continues untamed.
How could equitist societies continue to foster risk-taking entrepreneurship and eliminate profit-driven distortions? How would an equitist business be structured?
First, if we assume that the world still needs innovation - to eradicate diseases, create clean energy, ensure more people have access to proper food, reach for the stars, etc. - the concepts of "capital" and "profit" cannot be eliminated. The most innovative societies to whom we owe most of the tools that enable the modern way of life are the ones where capital is available for innovators/entrepreneurs to try out their ideas - such as the U.S., where planes, mobile phones, and the internet were all invented. Investors providing the capital can nurture the returns of their "bets." Alternative models, such as non-market economies, have consistently underperformed in driving societies ahead (outside of brief periods when other elements - such as Soviet-style fear-instilled competition - bridge the gap with capitalistic societies)
Second, since equity is our goal, the current business model does not work - and not only in the light of massive injustices like the vaccine ones but also under more ordinary circumstances. There are countless examples of business behaviors that no one in their right mind would endorse - but are widely accepted: for example, while the CEO of Starbucks received a $15 million compensation package in 2021 (and $21 in 2020), a Starbucks employee in Miami earns $11.74/hour, just above the minimum wage and the poverty line for a person with two kids in the region. Rolling back the tape of history, the 2008 speculative crisis is also a very vivid example of what unethical business behavior can provoke.
Radical interventions are needed to create an equitist system, where equity is achieved and innovation preserved. One step forward would be requiring businesses to share a significant percentage - such as 50% - of the ownership with their workforce. Why? It has been proven in multiple case examples that workforce ownerships increase the beneficial impact of businesses on their communities, starting from better benefits for the workers themselves to a more ethical way to conduct business under all lenses. Employee ownership increases trust and loyalty in the company, helps retain talents, avoids ego-driven mistakes by the leadership, and ensures longer-term preservation of the company.
While imposing full workforce ownership might discourage innovators and investors in certain sectors, a partial model would preserve the virtuous side of capitalism while toning significantly down its negative derivations. This would likely snowball into additional positive effects, like controlling the distribution of wages within a company to close the gap between CEOs and their workforce, avoiding wild delocalizations or massive workforce restructurings if not strictly needed, and ensuring the business community's better responsiveness to emergencies like pandemics.
THE READERS' CORNER
While the team and I continue to produce content for the upcoming Equitist Manifesto (here is a short draft), you can send some comments over, but also much more. Check below some interesting ways you can help in making the world a more equitable place.
- Interesting sources: there are also very successful examples of companies fully owned by employees - check out the great story of the Mondragon Corporation
- Join the team: become a member or a volunteer at Atlas to support the creation of our vision. For example, our Policy, Campaign, or Communication Teams would be glad to have your support to tackle societal discrimination: join us, and our Community Team will guide you to the right people ;)
- Spread the word: In our quest to create an equitable society, we produce this daily newsletter, (soon) a weekly podcast, and every month together with our 22,000+ followers, we launch campaigns to turn words into action. Please support our work and share the link to this newsletter.
So, what do you all think? If such a model was implemented, do you see potential benefits in your workplace? Do you feel different business sizes would require different interventions?
Let us know, as tomorrow we will continue the conversation!
We'll change the world!
✒️ Send feedback and ideas at [email protected]