Some organisations have better characteristics than others. Just being an organisation does not make you an example of what good looks like. What is sought are the special factors that make the organisation stand out. This will show up in some of the characteristics that they have. It is not proposed on this site to have a kitemark scheme with a formal checklist or tick box for inclusion. Instead it is hoped people with first hand experience will create the entries. The entries will be about the organisations that speak to them of cooperation and collaboration. The ones that they know about. The ones that they work in or work with. Testimony counts. Like holistic political economy itself this should be a bottom up process within a framework where judgement applies.
Whatever else they are large modern corporations in many countries are more gentle in getting people to work together then many historical ones when slavery and forced labour were normal. It is salutary to look at companies that were regarded as good because of their results 20 years ago and see where they are now.
- An organisation can be listed here because of one good characteristic; this does not mean that the organisation is endorsed. Similarly the existence of some bad characteristics does not stop the good ones being listed.
- It is likely that there will be more small business and organisations than large ones listed; the human touch matters, an impersonal process in a large organisation with opaque accountability is unlikely to deliver a good experience.
- A corporation that achieves high returns for shareholders, or delivers continually high profits, will not qualify for inclusion unless it has some good characteristics
- A charity will not be listed just because it is a charity – it may raise lots of money, it may deliver some good outcomes, but it may use dubious fund raising techniques, its management may be top down and highly directive, and its delivery may be to do it to you not with you.
- For similar reasons Trade Unions will not qualify just because they are worker defence organisations.
- Campaigning organisations, Political Parties and Think Tanks will not automatically qualify just because their advocacy is on the so called progressive side of the argument.
- Informal self organising and loosely coupled networks can and should be listed because of the cooperation that they illustrate – these are too often unnoticed and represent a huge range and reach
It is also too simplistic to simply say that where organisations have many sub-optimal (or even undesirable) characteristics the job of this site is simply to list whats good because concentrating on the negative does not help improvement. This site has to stand by its advocacy of an alternative vision - that alternative is what we call holistic political economy. What flows from that is that this is not the place to come if you are looking for the secret ingredients that guarantee making a lot of money. There are ample places where conventional business can big themselves up with PR and Greenwashing. You will not find them here. What you will find here is people making a right livelihood and doing things differently.
There is a spectrum ranging from conventional business that do things in a responsible way all the way to worker cooperatives, determining where to draw the line is always going to be a matter of judgment. Lets illustrate this with some cases;
Extreme 1 Obviously In
Cooperatives are very much likely to be thought of as exemplars for much of holistic political economy. However any individual coop may not be able to operate in completely sustainable ways because the economy within which it operates may be ignoring the issue. Coops have to survive and deliver a livelihood to their worker/owners.
Suma is an example where it would like to do more but cannot. It uses refillable containers where it can, but not for everything - that is down to supply. However in Suma the number of characteristics that match vastly outnumber those that don't, the counsel of perfection has to be rejected, Suma is in the catalogue - its a fabulous organisation.
Extreme 2 Must be Out
Many a plc is unlikely to be thought of as having good enough characteristics to be listed. It may espouse teamwork but if that is merely a transactional arrangement designed to extract maximum profit for the shareholders one has to ask if it isn't just a case of situational management e.g. we treat our European workers better than those in our international supply chain.
Take Disney; animation is produced by large creative teams, there has to be collaboration but there is also a production line process. Its customer service is a finely calculated process. But look at the recent decision to create an exclusive channel (monopolistic) and the editing of old films to fit in with modern sensibilities (Baudlerisation). Look the the relentless pursuit of shareholder returns. Just because Disney is financialy successful it is missing the characteristics that would represent an alternative vision and it isn't in the catalogue just because its animators work together.
The same could be said of any company with and R&D function such as Manufacturering or Pharmaceutical companies. The teams in these company's R&D areas will often be good places to work and the job will involve a lot of team work. That does not outweigh the aggressive use of patents to privatise knowledge, or the mass movement of manufacture to cheap labour areas, the sheltering of money from the reach of national tax regimes, or the relentless pursuit of shareholder interests above those of wider society. What lasting benefits does Detroit have from being motor city? Rochester from Kodak? Who cleans up the closed factories and pays the displaced workers? And in the supply chains, hidden from view who pays the cost of cheap?
Many Plc's will struggle to be listed here - of course one day, as a result of alternative thinking, they will not be able to avoid having to transform themselves to fit into the paradigms of the new zeitgeist.
Grey Areas - Just In
Kickstarter is a public benefit company and uses crowd sourcing to get projects up a running. It is also anti-union. Click here to see the details. Notwithstanding this it is an example of crowdfunding, it provides clarity on the cut it takes (5%). It works and provides a good experience for creatives, and through its public benefit status accepts it has wider responsibilities than just making a profit. Nevertheless this is a difficult judgement. Crowd sourcing, and producer control count in its favour. Anti-unionism sits uneasily and most projects use Chinese manufacturing which can be harsh.
Holistic Political Economy is pragmatic and non-partisan. Many on the left will simply take the anti-union stance as sufficient to overrule the other characteristics it displays. However Unions themselves are not always perfect and they are often oppositional. The cultural context of the US is very different to the UK.
It needs monitoring and it should be kept under review, but for now Kickstarter is just in.
A couple of others examples are public benefit corporations and share action.
Public benefit corporations have an umbrella organisation which is listed. By making the change to public benefit corporation the companies that do it are at least acknowledging that they have wider responsibilities than just maximising returns for shareholders. As such they represent a small step away from idea that has come to the fore in the last 30 years that it is the primary duty (if not sole reason for its existence) to maximise shareholder return. The umbrella organisation is listed for this reason alone. I have no insight into whether, B Corp itself displays good characteristics. The individual public benefit companies should be evaluated on their merits, as in the discussion of Kickstarter, above.
Share Action is a charity that promotes active share ownership, it seems odd that we need such a body but it seems there is an acceptance of the need for reform of corporate governance that runs across the political spectrum. I cannot say how democratic this umbrella group is but it it pushing form more accountability and a change away from shareholder dominance. It should not be confused with so called Activist Investors a rebranding for what is often little more than a front for sell offs and asset stripping.
You may have guessed that I am on the everything should be a cooperative end of the spectrum and in the template for Entries there is a place for caveats but the range of views is large. In the spirit of inclusion, pragmatism and consensus building as well as the reality of progress in baby steps, these need to be included as moves in the right direction.
Rebalancing the economy
Imagine a distribution curve of the economy we have now. In the leading quartile would be the companies who are top employers, the ones who might become public benefit corporations and accept their social responsibilities. Thats why they are and should be listed. But imagine if these were the in the trailing quartile and the rest of the economy was occupied by collaborative organisations cooperating to create the common wealth. Why shouldn't we try to remake, to rebalance, the economy like that?