The value of the negligible
Not a long time ago, I saw again the documentary: «The age of stupidity», by Franny Armstrong. He showed us a stark vision of a devastated Earth in 2055 by the overexploitation of natural recourses. It is based on scientific observations and already-happened events. In that future, a surviving old man wondered: «If we were aware of what was waiting for us, ¿why has anybody done nothing to prevent it?». Social responsibility politics, as we have designed, turned out insufficient to avoid the planetary disaster.
Also, a report by Mallerlyn I. Rodríguez, FCAT’s Social Outreach Coordinator, has fallen into my hands, which highlights the motivations that lead – in this case to companies – to practice Social Responsibility policies. This research shows that there are basically three main reasons why companies decide to integrate corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. Two of them are related to external factors: economic benefits and society pressures. A third reason is due to factors related to the people who lead the organizations: the altruism of the entrepreneur.
It is strange that, while the motivations to apply CSR criteria in the companies have been deeply studied, citizens were asked to follow these responsibility criteria just for civic motivation, applying the incentives of the economic profit and image makeover for companies. The argument of awareness, being fundamental, seems to withstand everything, but stopping the processes that deteriorate the planet demands of seamless, individual participation on a large scale: it is necessary to incorporate economic motivation for citizens as it is already done with the companies.
We excuse ourselves in that it is difficult to quantify the value of a responsible gesture: how much does recycling cost? The answer is clear: » It cost what someone is willing to pay for». Surely, it will be just cents, these same cents that fall to the ground and you do not bend down to pick them up, that is, their value is negligible. That is the bad new. The good one is that technology and new business models will allow us to save cents in a continuous way, dozens of times a day during the whole life, and thus changing what is now negligible into a real economic reward (e. g. savings for the pension). Applying such good practices and accumulating cents can be a real leitmotiv for the regeneration of the planet, while it is a way of supplementing the pension.
Recycling glass, paper, plastic or aluminum can be awarded with cents, and there are some countries where the culture of payment by recycling is admitted. However, we prefer to give the monopoly of the business, as well as large subsidies, to companies whose name begins by «Eco …», instead of motivating those good practices with cents to the user. And this should be applied to many of the practices done in an altruistic way, because paying them with cents would seem offensive: volunteering, cultural consumption, practicing sports, road safety, energy saving, …
We must promote that companies – on a voluntary way – reward the daily, responsible practices of citizens with insignificant amounts; the driving force for change is not only a personal conviction, but also an individual economic interest and the implied game. The concepts of payment, charge, shared ownership and social incentive are being transformed and it will become a part of the solution of the dark future of the welfare state of the West and the entire planet.