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Posts Tagged ‘corporate’

Photo: Oxfam / Jacob Turcotte

The leveling aspect of Covid, or any pandemic, helps people realize that one person’s situation affects their own. If people living in poverty have no way to stay safe, wealthy people more likely to get sick, too. Climate change is similar: pollution in a poor neighborhood will ultimately affect your neighborhood.

Today’s article looks at some connectivity lessons society is learning — and what companies are doing in response.

Peter Ford reports at the Christian Science Monitor, “Verneuil-sur-Seine is not the sort of place you expect to find a revolution going on. It’s a sleepy, nondescript suburb outside Paris, its streets hushed on a recent midweek morning. But in a cramped office in a converted apartment, an ebullient American mother of five and her French husband, a former auto executive, are busy reinventing capitalism.

“Putting purpose before profits and ethics above everything, they are building a new sort of business. ‘We wanted to bring all our personal values into the company,’ says Elizabeth Soubelet, a trained midwife. …

“Ms. Soubelet and her husband Nicolas make Squiz, re-useable pouches for toddlers to suck applesauce from, which help parents cut down on plastic packaging waste. Theirs is a tiny company with ten employees [but]even titans of finance are on the same track as a new mood sweeps through businesses on both sides of the Atlantic, prompting CEOs to shift out of greed and into good. …

“Battered by the 2008 financial crisis and its aftermath, tainted by yawning disparities in income and opportunity, and focused tightly on the bottom line, ‘capitalism has been derailed,’ says Paul Collier, an Oxford University economist and recent author of a surprise best-seller The Future of Capitalism. …

‘Potentially, capitalism is a wonderful system,’ he adds. ‘But it doesn’t run on autopilot. It needs rules.’ …

“When the global businessman’s bible, the Financial Times, launches a campaign entitled ‘Capitalism: Time for a Reset’ as it did last September, you know something is afoot.

“In the developed countries where capitalism first flowered, but shifted away from its social obligations, its credibility today is badly tarnished. A worldwide poll earlier this year found that 56% of respondents thought the system was doing ‘more harm than good.’ And when the pro-free market think tank Legatum surveyed British public opinion in 2017, it found the notion of capitalism most often associated with greed, selfishness, and corruption. … 

“Labor’s slice of the global income pie has fallen from 54% to 39% since 1970, while the share going to wealthier individuals who own capital (such as stocks) has risen correspondingly, [and] executive pay, meanwhile, has reached astronomical levels. …

“It wasn’t always like this; Henry Ford was keen on reminding people that ‘a business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.’ … That approach [is] stirring now in more and more boardrooms as business leaders carve out a new role for their companies. Last August 181 U.S. corporate members of the Business Roundtable, including the bosses of Apple, Walmart and PepsiCo, signed a pledge proclaiming their ‘fundamental commitment to all of our stakeholders’ and renouncing the doctrine of shareholder primacy. …

“ ‘It’s these notions of purpose, trustworthiness, values, and culture that underpin a reconceptualization of business for the 21st century,’ said Colin Mayer, the former dean of Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, at a recent seminar.

“But what does that look like in real life? For Elizabeth Soubelet, it all began with shame. She was buying applesauce in 64-pouch family packs, she recalls, ‘and my kids were finishing them in like 14 seconds flat’ and then throwing the aluminum-lined plastic containers away. …

“She decided to make her own, and with her businessman husband set about creating a company with a simple mission: to help people reduce waste by using the company’s reusable pouches. … But Squiz also has a broader vision of its purpose, Nicolas explains. ‘We want to build an organization that cares for people generally – our customers, our employees, our suppliers and the environment.’ …

“So as to keep the company’s carbon footprint light, and to fulfill a social purpose, Squiz entrusts its packing and dispatch to a local nonprofit employing intellectually disabled people. Last year that meant some time-consuming and costly mix-ups, but Squiz sales administrator Virginie Bartoli, who spent weeks at the packing center sorting things out, discovered a silver lining.

“ ‘I didn’t know much about handicapped people, but I realized when I was working there that everyone has the right to work,’ says Ms. Bartoli. ‘This job I do has made me more human, in some ways.’ …

“Still, what does all the care for the environment, the employee perks, the insistence that all materials be recyclable, do to the bottom line? Just how much does it raise the cost per unit?

” ‘That’s a question that drives me crazy,’ Elizabeth splutters. ‘What would you call the base cost? The China price? You can only tell the “real” price when you add in the damage to peoples’ health and to the planet.’ “

Hmmm. I do believe that committed individuals and small companies might stick to their ideals in this realm. But when it comes to large corporations, count me skeptical. They will be good citizens if it’s good business financially. If not, not. What do you think? More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Album cover for The Bathrooms are Coming!, a 1969 American-Standard musical (Blast Books)

I heard a great Studio360 show today. It was on the industrial musicals once used by corporations to get the sales team charged up to go out and sell.

“In the 1950, 60s, and 70s, a subgenre of musical theater entertained thousands. It had showstoppers composed by some of the brightest talent in the business. But instead of selling out Broadway houses, these shows played to packed hotel ballrooms and convention halls. …

“ ‘It was to build morale and build a sense of being on a team,’ explains Steve Young. ‘You weren’t isolated, you were a part of a greater whole that was looking out for you.’ A writer for David Letterman, Young has made himself the curator of the world’s largest collection of corporate musical theater performances. ‘Sales Training,’ a groovy number from 1972, includes specs for York air conditioner’s new line. ‘Once in a Lifetime’ breathlessly heralds the arrival of the 1958 Ford Edsel.

“Writing these musicals was no simple task and corporations spent lavishly to attract top talent. In 1966, John Kander and Fred Ebb wrote Go Fly a Kite for General Electric (in which Benjamin Franklin meets modern utility executives) — they went on to win a Tony for Cabaret. …

“Steve Young is co-author of the book  Everything’s Coming Up Profits.”

If you like musicals, you really must listen to the whole Studio360 show. It’s too funny.

You don’t want to miss “PDM (Power Distribution Management) Can Do”
from Go Fly a Kite — General Electric, 1966, by John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Walter Marks, or “An Exxon Dealer’s Wife.” Be sure to catch the song composed to sell Edsels and the haunting American-Standard number “My Bathroom” from 1969. (“My bathroom, my bathroom is a private kind of place.”)

Studio360’s show,”Curtain Call: Industrial Strength Musicals,” may be found here.

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I have always loved theater, and even when I have been in a play and felt stage fright, I have been able to make it work as a springboard for the lines I have to say. But when I have to do a presentation as myself and not a character, I freeze up.

Which is why I keep taking classes in how to give presentations, to no avail. But the class that I took last week may finally help me. And I think the secret of it was that the instructor, though an experienced corporate coach and adviser, is also a practicing actor and playwright.

He was very good at paring down the words participants wanted to use and helping choose the most effective ones. And his ideas about how to make an entrance, how to stand, natural gestures to use, tone of voice, and eye contact seemed to have roots in the stage. Even the freshness of his own presentation to the class seemed the result of having to say the same lines night after night in a show and make them seem new.

Of course, no class is magic, so we have to wait and see how it goes when I do my work presentation in late March. But I am definitely going to try harder to apply what I heard than when I took presentation classes in the past full of jargon, phony jokes, and gimmicks that are supposed to work but don’t seem to have a lot underpinning them.

The teacher was Brandt Johnson. See the actor here. See the corporate consultant here. Another one of these people who lead several lives simultaneously.

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