BiddingForGood CEO Answers "Why Occupy Matters"
Occupy Wall Street (or Boston, Portland, etc.) matters. A lot. Corporate leaders need to take note as this is not a passing fancy. Popular sentiment is turning against the corporate community and there is (hard) work to be done.
There has been a consistent refrain that the movement has no coherent message. I strongly disagree. There are two core underlying themes to virtually every complaint that the movement is making;
- Fairness is lacking on many dimensions
- The current system of capitalism and democracy isn't working for the vast majority of stakeholders
The reason that this matters hugely is that the complaints are legitimate and backed up by data and thus they aren't going away any time soon (unless we have a jobs recovery that nobody is forecasting). If we are not careful, Occupy may well end up in a different place than where it started.
Fairness: The fundamental constant at any of the protests is around fairness. Fairness is the constant underlying theme whether the issue is income inequality, bankers getting bailed out, corporate bosses being piggy, students getting stuck with the equivalent of home mortgages in student debt but no jobs, and so on.
The System Isn't Working: The system is driven by two primary models- the capitalism model and democratic government model. Capitalism isn't distributing the gains fairly. We've had over 65% compounded productivity growth from our labor force in the last 10 years and ALL of it went to the top 10% (the vast majority going to the top 1%). Doesn’t feel fair and it isn't.
The second place the system is breaking down is in democratic government. Here there seem to be two core issues. First, the influence of $$ from capital owners has become immense and as a result government policy tends to be beholden to moneyed interests with impact on regulation (or lack thereof). The second issue is that democracy is good at doling out ever bigger slices of a growing pie but does not dole out shrinking slices of a pie that isn't growing very well. In essence democracy is not good at making hard choices.
Peaceful...For Now: For now Occupy is a peaceful protest but where it ends up is anyone’s guess. To the degree that unemployment does not get better, or actually gets worse, expect frustration to build. That frustration will be more and more targeted and I'm betting it will be on the 1% and on corporations.
What To Do: Leaders need to listen and learn. The corporate sector takes much from our society in the form of profits (which have been increasing as a share of GDP for several decades) and there will be growing pressure to give back. This should be thought of in practical terms. Giving back creates a better culture which helps retain folks. It is also a part of what your brand stands for. It impacts the soul of the organization (if corporations are like people then they assuredly must have a soul).
The other thing that corporations need to be mindful of is government relations (read lobbying). This is having a hugely negative effect on the system. There needs to be discussion led by the major business groups about modifying lobbying (and saving everyone some $$ from an arms race that isn’t helpful).
Occupy is a new turning point for our society. The stakes are deadly high. If corporate and political leaders do not take the movement and its grievances seriously it will be a grave misunderstanding of the current state of play.