We are currently exploring the impact of selforganisation by teh private sector. The call for actions of the legislator is not the only way and in some instances just an excuse. Collective Actions are a mighty tool to establish international rules without involvement of any states. Such initiatives may also enable new cross collaborations between the industry and governments.
The helpless nation
In the Corona crisis we were able to witness that states without companies are in some places quite clue- and powerless. There was a lack of a suitable communication platform to organize crisis response. Who produces masks and protective clothing? Who develops and produces PCR and antibody tests? Who has the best prospects of developing a vaccine in a timely manner? Who decides where, what is produced? Who decides who gets how many masks? Suddenly, private companies are the focus of the nation states. It goes even further. The nations are not aware of the interconnection of global supply chains. The export stop of masks from one mask-producing country can lead to the fact that in return no materials necessary for production are supplied from another country. Many productions of other important goods, for example semiconductor technologies, are carried out in clean rooms, which in turn also require masks as part of the manufacturing process. These semiconductors are not only used in the military environment, but also in the manufacture of medical products such as respirators. The global maintenance forces of medical device manufacturers needed masks and protective equipment to keep the medical infrastructure in hospitals running. Governmental official just did not know. Without maintenance of the healthcare infrastructure the fight against the pandemic would have been made more difficult or impossible in almost all hospitals around the world.
The ethical enterprise
In any case, the attempt by nation states to regulate the distribution of protective clothing in the world has led to many unwanted and unhelpful artifacts. Likely, an association of industrial companies would have produced much more appropriate rules. Believe it or not, in some companies even ethical considerations play a significant role in companies when it comes to deciding to whom they deliver what and how much. Compromises have been made in the achievable price. In a networked world and towards your own employees, you have a reputation to lose, which is worth more than the quick Euro from an overpriced sale. Transparency in public plays a decisive role in this. In any case, as part of society we all – including profit-oriented companies – have an interest in the worldwide functioning of the medical infrastructure, supply chains and logistics. At this point, a strong private organization with proven collective action mechanisms could have done much good – or at least prevented much unnecessary suffering. At the very least, the communication platform between companies and national authorities would have been helpful.
Next week we will change the perspective. From the mission of planet preservation we will go to a more theoretical – but for quality of life just as important topic. Since thechnological development can not be stopped, we need strong railways on how to ethically deal with progress.