Oct 8, 2021Liked by Nick Asbury

This great, thank you for writing it.

“The idealism of every age is the cover story for its greatest heist.” Yes, just read the recent David Runiciman review on Thiel, the man's made a fortune grifting off tax payers $ by selling unproven tech to credulous bureaucrats!

There is something still unsaid. Why purpose?

It's a response to systemic problems caused by finance capital, e.g. cheap labor, even Fairphone can't make a phone without some child labor. They claim their first corporate act was to bribe a govt. minister to get access to a mineral mine. Forced labor is prevalent in cotton production. The CEO of FakikFashion a huge garment employer said passing on just a 2cents prince increase per garment would equate to an 8% pay rise for his workers, none of his clients, the usual brand names, would pay it. Of course "pay your taxes" but it's also a specific and necessary response to, "how are profits being made"? And the corporates are paying their taxes, that's one of the problems, purpose b.s. over here and lobbying over there in direct contradiction. The top 5 coops in UK pay more tax than the big 5 tech co's.

It's also a way to being 'politics' into the workplace without saying politics, we've been working under Milton Freidman's dictat since 1980, a right-wing position normalized into 'common sense'. It's worth re-reading the original essay because that itself was also a response, to CSR.

In his "the sole job of business is to make profit" Friedman’s assertion is that a corporate manager who speaks of the social responsibility of a firm is either stealing from someone or lying to everyone.

"To submit resources of the organization to social causes, a corporate manager must draw them from somewhere. And there are only three possible sources, none of which willingly chose to contribute to the cause: (1) the workers who must devote extra, unpaid labor for the cause; (2) the customers who must pay more for the product; or (3) the stockholders who must forgo potential profit."

Friedman admits to one additional possibility, namely, that the manager is, "actually striving to acquire a good reputation for his organization in order to increase its profits in the long run. In that case there is no specific economic sense to his moral flaw; he is simply lying: he is speaking about social responsibility whereas his real goal is profit."

Which is what you're pointing at, hypocrisy, piety and cant.

Let's say we're moving into an era where the reality behind the brand matters more than the aspirational facade it presents. Or, is it the reality behind the brand is captured by ESG, that consumers are also employees, they experience the inequities themselves e.g. exec share buyback schemes vs their wages, and so brands cleaning up their operational act *is* part of their "service" and does reflect an aspiration of their customers.

But we seem to be stuck in am opposition, "...for whom it sometimes makes sense to put long-term brand protection ahead of short-term profit." Why are those mutually exclusive? That sounds like leaving the door ajar for the practices that "purpose" is a response to, often evoked with the "being pragmatic" smokescreen.

Anyway, rambled on too long, the point is, there are significant problems in production and also in the desire factory. Freidman was the idealist of his generation, too... and purpose is only a partial paper over the cracks response, so what's the next move? Of course, there's always going to be money and markets, but there's more to this than a return to craft and ideas, there's a psychological bias in advertising towards middle-class material aspiration, the people who work in it are deeply affected, I think, so it produces a type of cultural output, perhaps there's something in that Ray William's phrase, "culture is ordinary", brands need to get off their high horses whether it's high finance or moralizing, just be ordinary, reliable, trustworthy, and good.

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Amen, sir. Happy to read longer posts when they are on point like this one.

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