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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Industry does not trust industry

This week I return to the why so smart yet so dumb comment; “we trust industry when it suits us”. I still find it hard to believe that anyone can be so out-of-touch, so silly, so … as to utter such words – well that is scientists for you! The rule of science and reason! God help us, for we will truly need divine help if ever this lunatic fringe gain power. But I digress.

As I write this, I have by my side a letter from a major financial institution, informing me about a change in approach for one of their ethical funds that form part of my pension investments. The announcement is about a tightening and strengthening of their investment criteria. Previously, the principles that have guided the fund have been quite broad (vague), and can be summarised as:

  • Exclude companies that do not meet certain ethical standards or that harm society;
  • Support companies that make a positive contribution to society, and
  • Encourage better business practices through shared ownership and dialogue.

Even in this set of broad criteria one can see a clear recognition that there are companies that harm society and that should not be trusted. And I was very glad to see that in future, a stronger set of principles will be in force, with a clear identification of some of these not to be trusted industries. The new principles are:

  • The exclusion of companies that are involved with the production of tobacco, alcohol, arms, nuclear power, pornography, and gambling, or practices such as unnecessary animal testing, or with unacceptable environmental or corporate standards.
  • Engagement with the management of the companies in which the fund invests to encourage them to adopt corporate, social and environmental policies that meet the fund’s standards.
  • Monitoring the performance of the fund against non-financial goals such as lower carbon emissions, or companies published policies and data on health and safety, diversity, etc.

The message is clear – there are many business sectors and companies that are harmful to society, to people, and to the planet. We should not trust such companies nor, I should add, people who say such stupid things as “we trust industry when it suits us”. Thankfully, some financial institutions realise this, and also recognise the need to steer clear of such sectors and businesses. But this raises the question of who will monitor the financial institution to ensure that they comply? So we are now into the matter of Second Order Cybernetics.

I will be returning to the issue of why we should not trust industry, scientists, technologists, and their representative bodies (e.g. The Royal Society), in due course, as well as addressing the matter of Second Order Cybernetics. Evidently also there are sectors of the economy that are obvious targets for policies based on de-growth, which is also something that I will turn my attention to in the future.

I conclude by saying that it is time to peacefully turn against such industries, to reject them, and to drive them out of business. And as for the scientists who justify and defend them by saying stupid things like “we trust industry when it suits us”: your time is over – you belong in the past, you are the past.

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