Capitalism is the best-known system for economic growth. No doubt about it. But when it comes to making us happier, healthier and more sustainable, capitalism isn’t delivering on its promises.
Some argue that inequalities have reduced over the past few years. That individuals have never enjoyed such freedom and access to opportunity. That poverty, hunger and illiteracy levels are continually decreasing, while life expectation increases. I won’t deny these macro-economic stats, but you only need to look around to realise that capitalism is just benefiting a few.
The effects we’re already seeing pale in comparison to the impacts coming our way. Capitalism’s intrinsic purpose is to maximise profits and achieve ongoing growth. But how can we aim to grow endlessly in a finite world? Climate change and resource scarcity are a reality, even though most of us are yet to suffer the consequences. Even if the capitalist system does eventually manage to create wealth and social equality, all that progress will be in vain if we don’t have quality air to breathe or water to drink.
The good news is that we’re not doomed to collapse. At least not yet. There is a form of business that will transform the world economy for good: social enterprises. These are businesses whose purpose is to maximise economic, social and environmental performance. When you look at it like that, it’s a no brainer. But we still, too often, fail to recognize the importance of fulfilling and achieving a balance between these three aspects. And that suggests to me that there’s something seriously wrong: with our society, with the way the human mind works, or both.
Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 Bangladeshi Nobel peace prize winner, eloquently put it this way: “Human beings are much bigger than money-making (…) Economists said: “Go and become a philanthropist.” I said, “No, I can do that in the business world, create a different kind of business – a business based on selflessness.”.
Last year I founded my own social enterprise: Companies for Good. We connect organisations with opportunities to do good – for their communities and environment. I’d spent years as a consultant helping big businesses become more sustainable. Now, I’m able to help businesses make the world more sustainable. Because capitalism might be failing us, but I know that companies – and the people working for them – have the potential to save us.
Marc Ruiviejo Cirera
Founder of Companies for Good