Can capitalism be responsible?

Some 20 years ago, when I was campaigning against GM seeds, a wise aunt advised me not to ‘demonise my foe’. Her words were in my ears last week as I was presented with the 18th Award for Responsible Capitalism by Princess Anne.

Some 20 years ago, when I was campaigning against GM seeds, a wise aunt advised me not to ‘demonise my foe’. Her words were in my ears last week as I was presented with the 18th Award for Responsible Capitalism by Princess Anne.

Previous winners include the heads of Unilever, BP, and Rio Tinto (foes?), as well as Divine Chocolate and Ecover. I believe the organisers and judges of this award genuinely share my desire for better business; however, I am less sure that they have the sense of urgency or the appetite for disruption that will be needed if we are to avoid blindly charging over the environmental and social cliffs that unbridled capitalism is leading us towards.

I used my three minutes in front of 200 ambassadors, lords and moneyed power brokers to give an angry speech about the failures of capitalism. We have created a system designed to make us behave irresponsibly, and then abdicated personal responsibility for our actions with the excuses that we are just ‘following the rules’, ‘doing what others do’, ‘being realistic’.

Capitalism has made it normal and acceptable to profit from destroying our collective future. Bizarrely, economists and policymakers present this paradigm as rationality; to me it seems pathologically delusional. On I went… And to my surprise, most people in the room seemed to agree. One woman told me that she knew climate change was real because she now had to walk 27 steps from her ski chalet to the retreating glacier.

I was told that ‘we need more people like you’, to which I should have replied: ‘no, we need more people like you, with options to change their ways and the power to set a better example.’ I may have sowed a few seeds of doubt, but I am not holding my breath. To paraphrase the phenomenal 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, hope will only come from action.

Of course, we need both change from within and challenge from without to stand any chance of passing a habitable planet on to our grandchildren. We need approval, encouragement and bravery from our peers; shaming from our children; incentives and leadership from government; and perhaps most of all, we need positive, joyous, well-publicised examples of a plausible alternative future. I believe Riverford is one. 

8 Comments

Leave a Reply

  1. Why more people aren’t buying from organisations like Riverford I just don’t know, those of us who do are hopefully doing our best to spread the word. Thank you to Guy and all at Riverford for giving us a viable alternative.

    0
  2. Benefitting from surplus or making a profit should not be scorned. The problem is not sharing that profit equitably and ethically amongst those who generated it, and respecting the earth, the very soil, air and water, that makes it possible. Riverford leads the way. Thank you for assuaging my conscience to some small degree…

    0
  3. Robert Weston

    I suggest that you visit Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union if you wish to see the devastation resulting from Socialist agriculture.

    0

In case you missed it

Your questions
answered.

Ever wondered what rewilding actually means? Or what’s the difference between grass-fed and organic? Put your questions to our experts and have them answer in full.

Learn more