Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Why can't they make a car that can't crash?
Why do they make products that are dangerous to our health?
Why isn't everything we own environmentally friendly?

These and other questions can all by answered with the following:

Money holds back technology.

I once thought that the capitalist system drove innovation, that money advanced technology, but that was when I was a lot younger. I hadn't yet seen the system from the inside with my own eyes. Since then I've worked in both manufacturing and product development, and now things are a lot clearer.

The bottom line is all that matters. While this may lead to the development of new ideas to serve the needs of the buying public, it also leads to many negative practices and results.

Planned Obsolescence

The economy can't function without cyclical consumption so things are designed to break down as quickly as possible. If things lasted, companies would only need to make one of everything, and after that they would close down. Far better to keep the public buying continuously, either through products breaking down or by withholding features for a future release.

Cutting corners

Using the cheapest parts and labour during manufacture doesn't just save money, it helps obsolescence. Forget safety (watch Fight Club), forget the environment, forget keeping local people in work. Forget about making a longer lasting product than our competitors, providing it looks like it has better features.

Labour, the biggest cost, is being sent overseas at an ever increasing rate. It's no accident that the world is being kept in a state where there are always poor people, otherwise, the cost of labour would put the prices of our ipods up to unimaginable levels. (watch The Story of Stuff).

Inefficiency

You would think that competition would cause companies to continue to improve efficiency, but it just doesn't work like that. If it did, our laptop batteries would last for weeks. Why should a laptop battery manufacturer care if their batteries need charging less? They care because it is more expensive to make. There is only one kind of efficiency a company is interested in, monetary efficiency. This causes them to outsource cheaper parts and labour, creating less efficient products.

In addition, workers paid by the hour, work slower, while workers paid by their output, reduce their quality. Counteract this by demanding minimum hourly output levels, you say? By doing this, all you're doing is pretty much guaranteeing a maximum output level. Why would a worker do more?

No innovations unless there is a profit to be made

Needs are not met, unless the solutions create money. In the book Where's My Jetpack?, the author looks at many, many technological needs that you think we would have conquered by now. Amazingly, for many of them, we already have. The issue is not technical, it's monetary. We should really be living in a world similar to the "Jetsons" - the solutions already exist, but they lack funding, because they lack profit potential.

This also leads to risks not being taken, leads for new ideas not being followed due to lack of funds. Inventor Jacque Fresco from the Venus Project has a lab worth of ideas that never saw the light of day because he was expected to fund his own development. Only when the investors saw fully working prototypes would they commit to investing.

While it might sound sensible not to waste resources, realise for a moment that if money is the only driving force in our innovation, how can we possibly hope to move civilisation forward in any way, other than that which creates profit? Where is the profit in treating poor sick children in Africa, or in exploring space? Charity and government intervention may try and contribute to these areas, but it will never, ever be enough. This is because both of these institutions can only function in scarcity, and removing scarcity will destroy the current system.

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Comment by Shiham on April 29, 2009 at 3:15am
Very well said Stuart!
Our values are so distorted today within the monetary system. What is a recession? we have all the resources still, we have the man power, we have the machines still SO why we stop producing and providing to humanity. . Problem is human concern comes after the profit. Its inevitable in this system. Its so outdated and uncivilized method.

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