Capitalism at a tipping point, says professor
HE’S a leading business academic, but if given the chance Professor Jean-Pierre Lehman would join the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Prof Lehmann, who is Emeritus Professor at Swiss business school IMD, believes that the capitalist system is at a tipping point- and if businesses do not change the way they do things, the entire structure is at risk.
He told The Straits Times yesterday that the biggest danger to the system comes from the wide inequality that capitalism has wrought.
“I’ve not been to a country where the people are not worried about inequality. It is dangerous, destructive and a cancer,” he said.
“There is a great sense of unfairness, and the sense that the future is not going to be better for your kids. And this feeling is universal.”
Nowhere is this depression more apparent than in Europe, he said.
In Spain, for instance, youth unemployment is close to 50 per cent.
“How can you tell a youth of 19 or 20 years old that he might be unemployed for potentially his whole life and then expect him not to get disillusioned? What has society done for him?” asked Prof Lehmann.
But even as he slams the system, he believes that it can still be changed for the better.
This, however, will require businesses to rethink the very fundamentals of what it means to do business.
Businesses need to go beyond simply corporate social responsibility and focus on creating social wealth, he said.
“Companies need to believe that they have a social obligation beyond to just their shareholders, but to all stakeholders,” he said.
The other solution, said Prof Lehmann, is simply to ensure that public goods, like education and health, are always made accessible to everyone in society.
he said: “We constantly have to create opportunities for people to overcome the sense of unfairness in society.”
AARON LOW – Straits Times 21st September 2012
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