10 June 2020 #Clarkslegal
The Covid-19 pandemic has had deep effects on society globally. At the same time observed adverse effects do not all flow purely from the pandemic, but may also be symptoms or aggravation of other underlying imbalance.
In these relatively troubled times around the world many people are personally living on a knife edge.
Wider society is not so different. Difficult circumstances like the current pandemic can add to generally felt underlying stress which may lead to unbalanced responses by communities as well as individuals. That may include even business leaders whose own sense of balance may at times be as compromised as others.
Both as individuals and communities we need to try harder at the principle of balance in all things. How is that supposed to work?
There are indeed some things it is right and proper to get angry about, especially trying to remedy obvious wrongs.
Increased awareness of wrongdoing, current or historic, can cause strong reactions and protests. This is currently very evident.
This includes not just rejection of memorials, some of which now appear offensive to many, but also grievances about long-standing inequalities and persistent disregard of injustices. Recognising key drivers of discontent and imbalance in any context is a big step towards resolving grievances and creating more harmony.
As individuals, finding balance in our lives takes us right back to knowing ourselves well enough to recognise causes of imbalance. A lot of people have learned about their own imbalance during lockdown. Changes will follow as they try to benefit from fresh perspectives, and employers will be needing to acknowledge the significance of that factor in the progressive return to working life.
Likewise, in society we need to listen to other perspectives and recognise examples of imbalance that can be remedied. Our whole society suffers when imbalance dominates, and this may include lack of balance in our relationship with natural ecosystems in the world around us.
Leadership in public and private sectors greatly needs balanced thinking, often facilitated by encouraging diversity in leadership teams. Male and female perspectives enable balanced decisions, and proper representation of different interest groups may in some circumstances be absolutely vital to understanding societal stress. Potential causes of stress and anger need to be understood and addressed early. It is a strong argument for structured collective representation by elected representatives that can give all employees a hopefully balanced voice.
As we face an extraordinarily challenging future, managing not just the recovery from Covid-19 but also the bigger threats of climate change and of massive job losses across the world through automation and other technical innovations, the guiding principles need to be balance of interests, balance of workable solutions, balance of sustainable investment and financing, and balance of generational needs and concerns. Missing such balance may generate overwhelming social disruption and unrest in far too many places.
It can be oppressive to hear constantly of all the things people do wrong around the world. Bad news certainly travels fast. Nevertheless, for every bad thing there will be something good, for people causing harm there will be others providing help, for everyone hurting our natural world there will be others who protect it. We sometimes have to look hard for that balance if overwhelmed by bad news.
Corporates are generally the organisations who help keep society working and provide the economic backbone of most countries. They need to be especially diligent to prioritise balanced thinking, measuring carefully the consequences of hard decisions. When something tough needs doing, as happens often in business life, and will inevitably be the case during recovery from the pandemic as many businesses are now seriously at risk, there should be a voice asking what balancing measures are possible to mitigate the harm being done, how is that to be achieved, at what cost, and met by whom?
The threat to traditional work from automation is a clear example of the urgency to balance productivity objectives with humanity. It is virtually inevitable that wholesale displacement of jobs will occur across the world in coming years, now likely accelerated by the pandemic.
Just removing humans from the workforce to introduce robots for greater resilience and productivity does not address the required balance of thinking. As much time and thought needs to go into how to mitigate the catastrophic outcome for workers as goes into planning the new technology and its implementation. Imaginative measures may be part of a balanced process of transformation, enabling, for example, something better and more enduring than a simple pay off to displaced employees. Ways to help as many as can to begin new businesses with some financial support, practical help and mentoring could represent a new sense of deliberate balanced thinking.
In assessing impact of decisions on the natural world, again the balance needs to be struck of not just exploiting but investing, not just removing but replacing, not just generating waste but recycling, not just polluting but cleaning. All of this needs to become part and parcel of everyday decision making.
Corporate leaders, and all those who advise them, can make an immense contribution to balance in our world by balance in their own analysis of decisions and consequences. This should be a simple but absolutely essential value of any organisation that cares about its own people, those it serves, those who invest in it, and the wider impact of the business on our increasingly fragile world and the communities at risk.
Clarkslegal LLP and the Commonwealth Environmental Investment Platform