Are corporations causing more harms or benefits to our planet?
By Chrissie Lowndes
Did you know that some of your favourite corporations are harming our society? No? Well, let me explain…
But first, what even is a corporation? A corporation is a legal entity owned and funded by individuals, stockholders, or shareholders. They tend to be the very big and popular organisations such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Shell, Tesco, Next. They are very powerful institutions in society, and they all possess the same sole motivation – the pursuit of profit.
The corporation is the dominant economic institution in contemporary society and its role is continuously debated. It is widely known that modern corporations have generated numerous benefits for our world, specifically in helping society become more economically efficient, however, this has come at a cost. Alongside these gains, corporations have created a variety of negative implications on our planet. So, are these corporations actually more harmful to our planet than beneficial? Let’s find out…
Globalisation has allowed corporations to expand to other countries and be mobile instead of being restricted to the country they were founded in, allowing them to dominate worldwide. Thus, corporations are very large businesses; they have more capital and therefore more means to produce products hence they are more economically efficient than smaller businesses – they are a profitable way of accumulating human effort to cause mass production. Corporations provide job opportunities for millions of people from all around the world as of the large scale of their organisations. For example, Walmart employs 2.3 million people globally. The increased opposition to corporations due to their rise has caused corporations to be more socially responsible and considerate in order to appear more appealing to the public, therefore corporations are progressing environmentally and socially.
However, corporations continue to disrupt our society. Workers continue to be exploited in corporations despite better efforts to battle the issue with organisations such as the Fairtrade foundation. Corporations continue to exploit their workers by not paying them for their full effort since the cheap labour enables corporations to make profit. In most corporations, poverty and privilege have become silent neighbours; social hierarchies are laden in the workplace. However, without the social hierarchy in corporations, society would not be able to function as people would lack aspirations and determinations which would cause a dramatic decrease in work ethic. The workplace needs diversity in all aspects – someone will always have a higher wage or have more authority. Despite this, corporations need to do more to minimise the gap between the richest and the poorest. Furthermore, corporations have proven detrimental to climate change. Just 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. This proves that corporations need to pursue greater efforts to become more environmentally friendly; they need to reduce the harm they are causing to our planet.
Corporations are so engrained in society so it would be very difficult to eradicate them. So, what can be done to improve them? Profits need to be directed elsewhere; instead of to the already rich corporates, a greater sum of profits should be given to the least paid people in the corporation – the workers – the actual creators of the products. How can a corporation be making so much food, but some workers are going starving? Additionally, corporations need to be more transparent – the public need to be able to access all views and aspects of the corporation so they can make their own judgement about whether they still want to buy from them. Social movements like 350.org aim to reframe the ‘social licence to operate’ which is based on the idea that companies need not only regulatory permission but also “social permission” to conduct their business to ensure that their operations are socially acceptable and legitimate. As the number of corporations increase, diversity diminishes; you see a McDonald’s, Boots, Morrison’s, consistently across the UK – they are everywhere. 69 of the top 100 economic entities are corporations rather than countries. Walmart gained a $559 billion revenue in 2021, higher than the GDP of all but the world’s 24 richest countries. This shows the extent of control, and the magnitude of the domination corporations have. This then becomes a cyclical issue; as we constantly see them, it makes you more likely to go to them since they are so accessible, providing them with more money and therefore more power, strengthening their corporation. Subsequently, we must improve our efforts to support more local businesses and other smaller companies whenever we can instead of continuing to resort to corporations.
So, what do you think? Has your opinion on corporations changed? Do you think they are providing more positives or negatives to our world? What is your view?