Marg O’Brien – Climate Karanga Marlborough
Marg is at the kitchen table, glued to her laptop and surrounded by books and notes...
Tom, thinking about when dinner might be coming, bravely interrupts: “Studying up on climate stuff?”
Marg: “Yeah, but this time I’m interested in the people side of things… the growing inequality… how are we going to cope? More than ever, we need ‘Team New Zealand’ to fight Covid but will the Team stay with us for the climate extremes coming our way? Will we hang together if inequality keeps growing?”
“You know Tom, we so need to support the way we pull together. Look, like the way we worked together after the recent storms. We need to be a socially cohesive bunch… not have the rich getting richer and the poor poorer…”
Google Assistant: “Social cohesion and community resilience are important resources in the recovery after a disaster. Inequality contributes to disaster vulnerability. Investment in social cohesion and community resilience during peaceful and prosperous times is critical to strengthening and leveraging these resources during a crisis… “
Marg: “Spot on Google! Thanks for that!”
“You know Tom, our economic system is so crazy. If money goes to investors it’s seen as profit. If money comes to us, the workers who are labouring away, it is seen as a cost. No wonder business people want to bring in automation or shift most of their business overseas to get work done cheaply!”
Tom: “But doesn’t that mean we get cheaper goods back?”
Marg: “Yeah, but when people are employed here, they get job experience and learn, they pay taxes and spend money locally. The money circulates. Sending the jobs overseas means that only people rich enough to be in business get a good deal ̶ not the rest of us!”
Tom: “I guess we’re always hearing: Go out and support local businesses. Buy New Zealand made!”
Marg: “Yeah, and when we export our jobs we give all these good things away and our people end up displaced and unemployed instead”.
Tom: “But we’ve got friends who run businesses. They’re not all cut-throats… I know at work they are keen to have us all paid a living wage. And at the pub the other night they were talking about some of the wineries looking after wetlands and farmers getting tree planting going…”
Marg: “You’re right. I’ve been reading about ‘Corporates for Social Responsibility’ that are meant to consider people, communities and their environment… a wider purpose than just profit. There’s also now a whole lot of businesses called B corps – that’s businesses that are Beneficial!”
Tom: “Isn’t this just a lot of talk, though. Haven’t you been calling this “green washing”?
Google Assistant: “Tom, the B Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of high quality jobs with dignity and purpose. By harnessing the power of business, B Corps use profits and growth as a means to a greater good...”
Tom: “Okay Google… that’s enough!”
Marg: “Tom, Google is only trying to help! What Google missed was that more and more B Corps are addressing the dual crises of climate change and social inequality!”
Marg: “Well, it’s an improvement! When companies first started doing this stuff, it was often a sort of an altruistic add-on, like helping with food parcels at Christmas or planting a few trees on the weekend. Now companies, like the B Corps are taking a step further so this wider purpose of people and planet as well as profit…”
Google Assistant: “…is incorporated into their business model and activities.”
Marg: “Yeah, that’s right Google! You know Tom we have over forty businesses that are B corps now! Like the Nelson business that you get your chia drinks from… that you just love after you’ve been cycling. And the Raglan firm that produces your coconut yogurt. They all care about the environment and keep well-paying jobs in our communities. Some have even declared a Climate Emergency!
Tom: “Okay… okay. I get it! But, thinking about the ‘people’ side of our own little home environment here… have you thought about dinner?
Marg: “Good idea Tom. Why don’t you cook tonight and do your great spinach omelets? And I can get a bit more of this people, planet and profit stuff into my head. I’d like to talk about it at my next garden club meeting!”
Tom: “Wait a minute! Wasn’t it your turn to cook tonight? I think we might need a bit more of that B Corp stuff here in this house!”
These are a collection of opinion articles principally written by CKM member Tom Powell for the Marlborough Express. Tom is a retired geologist who came to New Zealand in 2004 to work in the geothermal industry on the North Island, is a New Zealand citizen and now lives in Blenheim. Some articles have been written by other CKM members, and their names appear with those articles.