Several people have told me that they’re convinced we’re descending into a dog-eat-dog society, a calloused culture, an uncaring world. Although I feel the same way at times, I don’t think the evidence paints a bleak future.
Yes, some airplane passengers are violent. Yes, anti-Asian hate crime is up. Yes, corporate greed is too common and living wages aren’t common enough. Yes, democracy is teetering in some countries. However, to characterize the world as the sum of its troubles is akin to seeing only one team in a tug of war. The set of problems we face are countered by a set of attempted solutions.
The solution side of the tug-of-war benefits from nonprofits and government, of course. But most of us are unaware that, increasingly, businesses are also trying to pull us out of trouble. This isn’t to say that they don’t create and exacerbate societal problems. They do. But, there’s little doubt that the private sector does less damage and more good today than ever before. For example:
- Some employers are pushing the envelope on employee wellbeing offerings. For example, Brazil’s largest retailer offers substantial assistance, including covering rent, to employee victims of domestic violence. Another exemplary employer is Gravity Payments, a credit-card processing and financial services company based in Washington state. It set its minimum wage at $70,000 annually.
- Employees are forcing companies to do the right thing. Amazon, Coinbase and Walmart employees, for example, have made their voices count.
- Investors are shifting more of their investments to companies that do good. There has been a more than 10-fold increase in sustainable investments from 2018 to 2021, for example.
- Business leaders are taking courageous stands for good. For example, hundreds of CEO’s – including those of Amazon, Apple, Google, G.M., Merck, Starbucks and Square – took great political and brand risk by signing an open letter opposing restrictive voting laws.
- Innovative experts in corporate social responsibility are introducing new solutions. For example, Brandon Peele founded Unity Lab, which offers novel services designed to wipe out workplace divisiveness. David Hessekiel, on the other hand, founded Engage for Good to build business-nonprofit alliances that accomplish what neither can do alone. A final example is Wole Coaxum. He established MoCaFi to offer wildly innovative financial services, including Universal Basic Income, to those excluded from economic opportunities.
If you haven’t seen these positive developments in your news feed, it’s not your fault. Actions that improve our lot aren’t alarming or dramatic and, thus, are underreported. It might get all the attention, but rotten behavior is only half the human story. Need more convincing that things seem worse than they are? If you have Do Good at Work: How Simple Acts of Social Purpose Drive Success and Wellbeing, consider rereading chapters 12 and 13. If you don’t have the book, this evidence-backed quote might help:
“[Interpreting the world through readily available information is like] wearing grey-colored glasses. It makes us believe we are among nasty, brutish people even when we’re not. And the vast majority of us during the vast majority of time, are not. Contrary to the world view that Hobbes talked us into, we are most often surrounded by caring and cooperative people.” (Do Good at Work by Bea Boccalandro, chapter 12)
In summary, contrary to appearances, we have good reason to stay hopeful.