BIG Ain’t Bad!
BIG Ain’t Bad!
“Bigger is Better…” You big bully!”... “big guys shouldn’t pick on the little guys…” “Ya big lug!”… We’ve all heard phrases praising or condemning being BIG. We have a love hate relationship with BIG going back to time immemorial. If we think BIG is on our side, it’s good- “A BIG turnout for the election won it for our candidate”. If we don’t like what BIG is doing, it’s bad- “BIG corporations just can’t be trusted.”
But BIG is neither good nor bad. It’s just big! And therein lay the dangers and the opportunities. BIG has an impact, just due to size. And BIG companies, organizations, and institutions are not going away. There they are. So it’s critical that we do what we can to get BIG on the right path. [To comment on this article, click here.]
Some folks are just kneejerk against big -companies, government, whatever, both on the left and the right. The Tea Partiers hate big business and distrust government as much as WTO protesters. But I’ll let you in on a secret about what’s inside those big bad corporations. People. Lots of ‘em. They’re a lot like you and me. They eat food, breath air; drink water, care about the planet, their kids, their communities, and making their organization and the world a better place just like you and me. In all my years as a sustainability consultant to companies, big and small, I never once saw Darth Vader darting down a hallway or slipping into a corporate board room. Full disclosure: I did see a picture of Dick Cheney hanging on someone’s wall once.
A decade or so ago, my friends at Nike were reviled as sweatshop supporting, waste producing, elite capitalists. Well, they are capitalists, but Nike has been voted in the top Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethical Company lists worldwide for several years running now. They heard the call of the activists, their customers, and most importantly, the people who work in the places that make Nike products. And they responded by setting the global standard for workers in manufacturing facilities abroad, improving working conditions and lifting the prospects of thousands. They eliminated toxics from their products, slashed waste, reduced their carbon emissions by 75%, developed products like the Considered line of sustainable gear, and became a global champion for the rights and empowerment of women and girls. A big player, having a big, positive impact, while selling footwear and apparel to athletes both rich and poor.
BP “outed” the oil industry by getting behind carbon reduction and naming their industry as a big part of the problem. Wal-Mart brought 100 million CFL lights to middle America, not just deep green households, and set new waste standards and energy conservation standards for their whole supply chain. GE is a leader in cleantech, wind and other energy systems. These BIG firms did far more for the planet than the US government did over the past decade. SunTech is a multibillion dollar company based in China, the biggest coal burning, CO2 spewing country on the planet (Team USA is now second). As the name implies, SunTech is the largest solar energy company on Earth. You can find real problems with each of these firms as well, just like within ourselves. But here’s my point.
We need to reward and encourage BIG for doing the right thing, just as strongly as we point out and hold them accountable for doing the wrong thing. In this age of transparency, we have the power and the technology to uncover and name transgressions, as well as discover and bless good deeds and directions. Like we should do with kids, catch ‘em dong something good. Big companies are like big ships. It takes a lot of hands to steer them and to change direction. As consumers, stakeholders and citizens, instead of throwing rocks, we can throw ropes over the bow, and pulling hard, we can influence from within and without, getting BIG business to move in the biggest direction they can, toward the greatest good for all.
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