Of money and turnips
Before we get into today’s business, I should take a moment to explain my purpose in this blog.
The name of the blog is a dead giveaway really…here we look at the world through the prism of a glass turnip; we see the world as it really is. We take on environmental and social issues with the frank honesty and unembellished lack of political correctness that the glass turnip symbolises.
Aside from its stolid straighforwardness the turnip is perhaps the most misunderstood and underrated of vegetables. It was the application of the turnip to animal husbandry in Britain in the 1700s by one Charles “Turnip” Townshend that meant cattle could be kept during the winter rather than slaughtering the herd for lack of food. The resultant avoidance of the need to gorge on meat at Autumn’s end was a health boon in itself. As a food the very blandness of the turnip makes it a vegetoid ninja, poised and ready to strike by playing its part in any culinary exploit. A turnip made of glass of course enables us to see the world through the lense of this heroic root-crop. Hence, this blog proudly emblazons itself with the noble and insightful emblem of the glass turnip.
So what does running the glass turnip across the latest comments from the Commonwealth Bank CEO, Sir Ralph Norris tells us? It tells us he doesn’t have his own glass turnip and that he just doesn’t really get it.
In defense of his bank’s 0.45 per cent interest rate increase (0.2 per cent above that of the Reserve Bank of Australia) Sir Ralph Norris said that he was aware that some people would lose their homes as a result, which troubled him, but he believes that if banks don’t make profits then economies go backwards. This is against the backdrop of the Commonwealth Bank recording a record $6.1 billion profit for the last financial year.
Here’s the thing; banks are not solely economic institutions. By virtue of the fact that they are the medium through which our social currency (money) is managed, they have a social role as well. That means they also have a social obligation but this appears to have been lost in the rush to appease shareholders and the upper levels of bank management.
Sir Ralph Norris said that having good customer assistance programs for those genuinely in need is all that he can do. If that is a genuinely held belief by the CEO of a major bank then that is very sad.
Has the triple bottom line been lost now that we have gone through a GFC? Do organisations no longer acknowledge their social and environmental obligations simply because managing money is not so easy as it once was?
“The economy” is not the only barometer by which success is measured. No-one is seriously suggesting that a Pollyanna-like view of the world should be adopted. Of course institutions need to be profitable to survive but bleeding the society that feeds them will eventually run the resource dry.
The CEO’s comments are being reported as a public relations disaster. More disturbing than the image they portray however, is the fundamental lack of understanding that they reflect. Everything is connected to everything else; when you abdicate responsibility and support for others you fail to understand that diminishing a part diminishes the whole.
Splintered societies disintegrate: integrated communities offer sustainable longevity.
The irresponsibility of sectors of the banking system in the United States in particular caused global problems. Blinkered adherence to fiscal bottom lines at the expense of our social contract however, is not the answer or any sort of a basis for a way forward.