Summit partner, Ethical Consumer give their view on CTRLshift.
At Ethical Consumer we have observed a worrying trend: governments ceding increasing amounts of power away from people and into the hands of large corporations, whether through privatisation, deregulation or multi-national trade deals. The uncertainty caused by Brexit means that these issues are particularly poignant in the UK today as our Government seeks to find new trade relationships and incentivise big business to stay.
‘Inspired’ by our current political climate, Ethical Consumer focused its 2017 conference on challenging corporate power, which brought a number of different voices into this space: from ethical consumers, alternative media, campaigners, think tanks, policy makers, permaculture practitioners and ethical business. All have a unique and important approach to tackling our current predicament. We must, together, challenge corporate power, especially if our Government’s won’t.
“This country severely lacks the channels for meaningful participation. This is true in both public and private spheres. Participation in politics is crucial for a better and more inclusive society. Participation should not mean several aggressive marketing campaigns followed by a piece of paper with a yes/no question on it. We need to find ways to be inclusive and to collectively support a dialogue between those who have become divided. Our role in civil society should not just be occupy this space but to open it which I hope CTRL Shift can facilitate.” Fran – Ethical Consumer team.
Business as a force for good
At the core of Ethical Consumer is a belief that we, as consumers, as citizens, have power. This is not just referring to individuals’ ability to avoid products which have harmful effects on people, animals and the environment, but the ability to physically resist (fracking companies in our communities for example), or practically create the world we believe in by supporting regenerative initiatives.
Through supporting ethical business and regenerative practice, we believe there is the opportunity to transform the entire culture of consumerism into something that can act positively in the world. There is often an ‘us and them’ mentality held by civil society actors with regards to private enterprise, but businesses have a wide network. They connect their customers, their employees and all those working in their supply chain. It could be just as effective to support the devolving of power within corporations as well as away from them.
Imagine if giving power to a corporation equated to giving equal power to all those connected to it and not just to a small number of wealthy executives.
Hopes for CTRLshift
We are hopeful about the opportunities CTRLshift can bring and look forward to engaging with the multitude of organisations attending. For our part we hope we can bring what we have learnt from nearly 30 years working in this space and the importance of working and collaborating at all levels.
Rob Harrison, co-founder of Ethical Consumer commented: “CTRLshift seems to throw up a lot of questions for me. Why is it needed now? Is there something unique about this moment? Is there something wrong with our political parties where normally this kind of discussion would take place? Or is there something wrong with the system within which the parties operate? Localism can provide only part of the answer I think. Because there are downsides to localism too – like inequalities in provision and a loss of global connection. At Ethical Consumer we know the importance of making change happen by working at many levels at the same time – on building new institutions (ethical companies) locally while reforming the ones we have globally (boycotts, social labels), at the same time as fighting to regulate all of them.”