Strains on the idea of nation, churnings surrounding the notion of integrity through the medium of race, impropriety towards outsiders — all leading to a vision of "us versus them", with the uncanny conviction that "my way should prevail with best sense" over the other. As the forces of such turbulence march across the world, the common thread in this development is that the world faces uneasy times with the past being questioned, the present shaky and the future moving towards an uncertain contempt of the "other".
Collective voices act as a check on individual whims and offer hope when democracy degenerates towards actions that suppress individuals — from the chief executive of the multinational General Motors, Mary T Barra, giving a clarion call for tolerance, inclusion and diversity, to the likes of Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan asserting that equality is the nation’s bedrock.
A global corporation like Nike has looked at climate change as a serious global threat and pondered over ways to achieve a low-carbon growth economy. Such meditation gives space to collectivist ethos over chaos when the world is on the verge of transformation.
After the Charlottesville violence, Apple chief Tim Cook pointed out to US President Donald Trump that hate is synonymous with cancer. Will corporate India take a leaf out of Cook's response and assert that whatever be the range and colour of our political views, we must not let equality take a backseat or allow justice to be hampered when cases of mob lynching are reported?
'Hate is a cancer, and left unchecked it destroys everything in its path. Its scars last generations. History has taught us this time and time again, both in the United States and countries around the world': Apple CEO Tim Cook on Charlottesville violence. Photo: Reuters
Corporates in India have joined hands with the government in the past on a wide spectrum of social issues — from education to even rejuvenation of lakes. As the government is trying to give an impetus to skills and entrepreneurial spirit, reframing the corporate governance yardstick would be a way to harness our soft power.
After several years of condemnation of big businesses as greedy and evil by the protégés of Marx and the sympathisers of the Left, today even former agents perceive the corporate world as a force of morality to reckon with.
It may be about money over morality as racism and Nazism are not in good taste for the generation of profit in the contemporary scenario, but one cannot dismiss that corporate America seems ready to take up the cudgels for the administration, from climate change to morality.
It is revamping its role from being the profit seeker to an engine of progress and morality. Will corporate India follow corporate America?
Throughout history, the political state has merited the attention of trade and commerce. Going by the concept of industrial democracy or Schumacher's notion of small is beautiful, there has been acceptance of businesses and corporations as significant organs of change. Also, what affects governments is bound to impact enterprises.
The perplexing question of “what is a good life” always leads to a heterogeneous answer, considering various corporate operative procedures.
This complexity of moral, corporate life applies to government exercise as well. Focusing on virtues and the larger problem of evil gives primacy to the idea that moral objectives can be attained by social co-operation.
At the same time, the consequential nature of business ethics doesn’t make its practice easy. Impersonal markets do not seem to be a holistic package against the fears of a valueless, development paradigm.
Power merits accountability. Through normative intervention, the real social control of power in unearthed in innovative ways.But for deliberation of mathematical figures in budgets, scant attention has been paid to corporates’ focus towards government functioning.Corporate morality has moved from market share and sponsoring of non-state activities to providing critical policy insight on how a government works.
British scholar Oliver Sheldon opined that morality is part of corporate social responsibility. It plays a productive role in business operations and adds the tenor of a spiritual base — this accounts for the “real face of economy” as the latter does not operate without people.
Distribution and exchange of commodities are the first to be disturbed when business environments are marred by chaos and conformism.
Therefore, it is not only about fetching high praise for morally condemning an act, but going the extra mile to keep the business environment conducive for their work.
The fear of customer boycott in the face of support or opposition to administration is vexing and may, at times, become the litmus test for nationalism. Such vigilance must not be as a wall of schism between authorities and business leadership, but a recognition of the fact that rules of politics undergo change. New context demands renewed ways of engagement.
In both the white backlash developing in the United States and the ongoing nationalist debate in India, the fight over narratives of history is apparent. They may be parallel narratives, but can learn from each other.
The pledge for a "New India" by 2022 ironically comes at a time when communal violence, mob-lynching, cow-vigilantism, employment and unresolved issues such as a strife-torn Kashmir, terrorism and Naxalism are pervasive.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently met many young entrepreneurs at a programme organised by Niti Ayog, and hailed them as champions of change. Corporate India must use this occasion to forge a new partnership with the government. That corporate donations have made elections the most unethical exercise was recently pointed out by the Election Commission. Business fora must seize this moment to take a stand against not only politics of hate but also corruption.
After all, public morality is not the government's job alone.