Committee for Collective Actions ( 29/52 – Terraism)

Illustration by Susanne Gold/ text by Ted Ganten
In this clip you will get more information on “Terraism”. Download the full book.

The private sector has a lot to contribute to the preservation of our planet. Currently human rights and environmental protection is seen as a national task. ´Private organization only need to comply with the applicable law. However, ethical behaviour is in the interest of organizations, its mangers and employees. Often they feel that competition prohibits them from exceeding pure compliance with the law …

How do we start?

Members of the terraistic association can be natural persons, companies, other non-profit associations, foundations and even nations/federations of states. According to the idea of collective actions outlined above, a code of conduct would have to be adopted depending on the circle of members, which is committed to the goals of Terraism. We would start with the lowest common denominator in order to create trust and to achieve first results quickly. The 10 principles of the United Nations Global Compact Initiative would be a possible starting point for such a low common denominator. The Sustainable Development Goals of the UN contain further important topics. Many of these goals, such as the abolition of child labor, are based on a very broad ethical consensus. It has never worked among nations and corporations due to the given competitive situation and due to missing enforcement provisions in these regulations. Especially the very poor states thought that they would be more attractive for corporations if they allowed even younger and therefore cheaper workers. If now at least the large corporations were obliged under the association’s statutes not to employ children under 14, the nations would no longer have to cooperate in this area to achieve the same goal.

Will it be effective?

In doing so, one does not need all the companies in a sector. A considerable market share is sufficient. This is possible because these rules would also extend contractually via compliance clauses to the supplier companies of the members. In addition, we could, similar to the fair trade or comparable seals, establish a mark that verifies compliance with the codes of the terra-terrestrial association. The world of these seals is certainly questionable in some areas, but I know of many who pay attention to organic or fair-trade logos, among others. Competition between companies not to abide by the collective action rules or not become member could only be avoided and buyer confidence would only be established if these “voluntary commitments” were also monitored and enforced. After all, a company does not have an intrinsic motivation to adopt unethical child labor. It is “driven by the market” to save money as far as legally possible in order to be cheaper or more profitable in competition. Collective actions have the power to end this spiral – even without the cooperation of nations.

What is next?

The same applies to corruption, lobbying, sustainability, and environmental protection. As soon as a critical mass of private companies would be part of the association, the enforcement of uniform values and standards would no longer depend on the nation states. The association could have its own audit team and a statutory right to impose appropriate association penalties in the event of non-compliance with the self-imposed rules. If the fundamental issues in which no company has an interest of its own are addressed, more difficult issues such as the existence of tax havens could be addressed. If every company that pays less than 15% tax had to pay the difference to the association, this would dry up the most blatant oases. Again, one would have to oblige the member companies to apply these requirements with all contract partners. Through regular audits and possibly an information service, the association would support the implementation.

Are there new ways?

Also, collective actions among the member states or in mixed constellations with companies could be explored to achieve more not by power and threat – but by creating win-win situations. There must be a reason why Panama and the Bermuda Islands establish tax havens. What do they really want? Maybe not states but companies are part of the solutions. The association could establish a platform for a new communication on these issues.

Next week we will see on the example of the Corona crises that nations and governments are not almighty. Cooperation with the private sector is truly needed going forward.

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