You remember those old rust buckets made by a well known British company that had the cheek to call itself a car maker? No wonder that well known company went to carmaker heaven many eons ago.
Once I was young and idealistic. I actually believed that large corporations could be trusted to do the right thing. It was with shock that I found out that light bulb manufactures spent more money making sure that a lightbulb would only last a certain life before blowing than they spent on making the bulb in the first place.
Sorry, I can tell that some of you are lost already, you really should learn English you know. A “globe” is not a lightbulb, it is one of those round balls with all the different countries of the world marked on it in pretty colours.
My innocence was even more confronted when a famous car magazine suggested that the aforementioned well known car manufacturer was purposely putting all sorts of little cracks and crevices underneath so the car would collect salt and mud which would make it rust away. My attempts to come to terms with such an accusation were finally dashed when I spoke to a manager at a company that made the dashboard switches. He reported that huge amounts of money had been spent to develop a special grease that made the switch fail after a planned thousand operations.
Planned obsolescence they call it. In five years the car will rust away and you’ll have to buy a new one – to some people this is considered normal business practice, perhaps sabotage is a more appropriate expression.
Businesses must look after their customers I hear people say. Yes but these corporatised days the customer is the shareholder not the person that walks into the premises to buy something.
But we are now hearing a new piece of Jargon. (Have you noticed that every now and then a “new” management idea occurs that in reality has been around for years but someone has renamed it and gone on a marketing campaign. “Quality Assurance” is a good example – a whole industry has been built around that one.)
So how about “Corporate Social Responsibility”?
“Corporate Social Responsibility”.
Is this some dreamtime notion based on the idea is that companies will be socially responsible in carrying out their business activities.
I am really convinced about this one.
I am sure the people of Bohpal in India will agree too.
Ask farmers in America about the genetic modification of seed, I am sure they’re as convinced as I am. Perhaps we should talk to a couple of asbestos manufactures, the people still making CFCs or drug companies selling drugs to Aids sufferers in Africa. The list goes on and on. I am sure there are some ethical companies that try and do the right thing but aren’t these usually the ones that get bought out by more ambitious businesses?
I say I have just come from the corporate jungle. I met a lion trying to eat a zebra. When I suggested it was a little cruel to the poor old zebra he apologised. “Sorry” he said, “I won’t do it again – honest.”
Some would say that Corporate Social Responsibility is the ultimate cynicism in a world of unbridled corporate greed. Some would say that it spills from the mouths of arrogant people who, through greed, have lost all touch with humanitarian values or consideration for one’s fellow man or woman.
I remember hearing about a major computer company that had hit on a clever new sales strategy – “sincerity”. Research had told them that, surprise surprise, people preferred to buy from someone they trusted. From now on all sales reps would be trained in how to sound sincere.
As for Corporate Social Responsibility there is, however, a beacon of hope, right under our noses too.
The Indonesian government is introducing Corporate Social Responsibility legislation that will require large government enterprises to pay 5% of their gross income into funds for social assistance projects. This sounds like a far more realistic approach than trusting people who have dollar signs in their eyes.
So what the h… has all this got to do with Fixed Abode. Well quite a lot really. The quality and lifetime of many of things we use in our homes and workplaces are important to us. I have already mentioned lightbulbs, here is another example.
Many years ago I came across an Australian company that makes, among other things, solar hot water systems. They had a clever approach, they made the water tank out of mild steel (which rusts) and lined the tank with stove enamelled paint (they call it a glass lining). They also fitted a sacrificial anode which corrodes slowly and stops the steel rusting. One day the anode is all gone, the tank rusts through and the heater is useless. A clever way of building in planned obsolescence.
Calculations in Australia usually indicated that solar hot water systems would pay for themselves in about 7 years but then mysteriously would always rust out in around 8. There was, however, an exception. One renegade company in Western Australia developed an excellent reputation because they made their tanks out of stainless steel. Unfortunately that renegade company has in recent years been bought out by the bigger boys so, sorry, no more stainless tanks.
This “design feature” probably explains why the take up of solar hot water systems in Australia is surprisingly lower than you would expect and less than in some other not so sunshine endowed countries.
If you are considering buying a solar hot water system bear in mind that if the advertising says “glass lined” this really means it is not stainless steel and will probably rust out in several years time. If you already have a well known brand of Australian solar hot water system and it is more than say six years old perhaps you should see if you can install a new sacrificial anode.
Perhaps in our rapidly warming world we should all be using solar power to heat our water. I am still investigating options and would be interested to hear your stories and experiences.
As for social responsibility I could tell you about my experiences with a company that carried out repairs in nuclear power stations but that’s another story.