Living in a capitalist country and working for a large corporation, I often find myself in conversations discussing about companies are big evil entities that feed on the poor and make the rich richer. There are countless stories of where businesses have exploited a cheap workforce, or driven down costs of the supplier to increase margins, Coca Cola, Nike and Primark are just three of the Corporate bullies that are guilty of this. Although there are a number of very good examples that this behaviour exists, I personally do not think that this is the behaviour most businesses follow. When a revealing story shows the impact of very poor decision making by a firm, those firms around it will be labelled the same. I would argue that similar to the rest of our lives, we remember the things that went badly far more than we do those that went well, because after all, for our own survival, vividly remembering what went badly and why is essential. So, when a dog bites you as a child, you are likely to dislike all dogs, a natural instinct to try and prevent this from ever happening again.
There are times when any successful business achieves what economists call super normal profits, which is, put simply, when a business earns higher profits than one would usually expect. This level is often unsustainable unless the business has a position of power where they can dictate the price of their product or supplies, an example of this is the Apple iPhone. Where these profits go and how they are invested is how companies who are grown in a culture of capitalism can give back.
There can be a perception that only Non-Profit Organisations are capable of humane actions, which is just not true at all. If we look at just the skin of things, there are companies investing the money they made from selling their products in sustainable projects, and helping the poorer nations of the world by creating filtered water sources. Although these efforts can be seen as a feeble attempt at gaining positive publicity, there are projects going on that are really changing the world for the better from these corporate bullies.
IBM for example has Watson, which was once seen as a gimmick at beating the winners of Jeopardy at their own game, is now seen as a path for the future of cognitive computing. The way Watson can interpret real language into computable data has benefits across industries and countries. For example, Watson is currently being used to analyze Cancer patients files over a long period of time from a large number of surgeries. What does this mean to the world? A doctor in the middle of a poor country simply needs an internet connection and they will be able to tap into all of that knowledge saving lives all over the world, and with greater accuracy as it continues to learn from even more sources.
Another example from a big bad corporation and its owner is Bill Gates and Microsoft. The company has become a household name and essential to most of our lives today and turns over a vast sum of money every year. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft has benefited from this as you can imagine, but he refuses to pass on his fortune to his children when he passes away. Instead he has a moderate sum set aside for inheritance and his day to day life, the rest of his fortune is spent making the world a better place, founding various charities and giving money to those in need.
The third company I want to highlight is Virgin. This conglomerate expands its reach everywhere from drinks to air transport, but also drives a number of charities and is always creating new and innovative ways of helping those less fortunate than those in most Western Economies, a simple yet effective demonstration of this is its donation website. It enables busy people to donate money with very little effort at all and ensures every penny goes to the charity unlike some of these sites.
I don’t claim or believe that all companies are angels, but what I do think is that a change of perception is needed to understand that large companies are not evil, they are run by people, humans, who care just like you. I have picked these three because of the story they tell, but there are many, many more like this, people just need to look at companies for what they do, not what the news says they do.