“In a real ‘economy’, money is only a means to an end. If we were to measure economic success according to that end, human creativity would generate an increase in common good. Economy and value would then be in harmony.”
– Christian Felber, author of “Change everything. Creating an Economy
for the Common Good”
Where do we stand today?
Companies aspire for profit maximisation so they squeeze each other out of the market until there are only a few large corporations left. These corporations then have power over consumers and states, and can dictate global events. Environmental and social standards get crushed in the quest for profit.
Where do we want to go?
More growth is not possible on a finite planet. Capitalism and communism have failed. We now need new ideas, for example the Economy for the Common Good.
What is the purpose of business?
The Economy for the Common Good is focussed on the real purpose of business – meeting our human needs. This primarily involves forging successful relationships: they are a requirement for being happy, and they are a requirement for the common good.
Money, in contrast, is only a means of economic activity: economic output, measured in money, does not indicate whether the common good is rising or falling. To measure whether this purpose is being fulfilled, other indicators are required.
How do we assess if this purpose is being fulfilled?
Organisations can assess their contribution to the common good by evaluating how successful their relationship is with suppliers, investors, employees, customers and the social environment based on indicators such as human dignity, solidarity, environmental sustainability, social justice and democratic participation. Alongside a financial balance sheet, they would provide a Common Good Balance Sheet in which their contribution to the common good is assessed in points.
What effect might this have?
By consulting the Common Good Balance Sheet, customers can see how much an individual company is contributing to the common good – and they can bear this in mind when shopping.
In addition, organisations that do much for the common good can obtain further market advantages through lower taxes, easier access to subsidies or loans or through preferential arrangements in public purchasing. This makes their products not only more attractive, but also more cost-effective.
What would the economy look like then?
Suddenly, sustainable, fair, democratic and cooperative organisations will have the advantage. Regional economic cycles will gain momentum. Decent workplaces and high-quality products and services will be created, while environmental damage and social problems will be reduced.
Can this work globally?
Within the framework of fair trade agreements, countries recognise each others’ Common Good Balance Sheets. Products and services that damage the common good will have customs duties imposed on them or they will be prevented from importing at all.
How will this be implemented?
More than 500 organizations across Europe and the Americas have already compiled Common Good Balance Sheets – and the number keeps growing. Regional groups are being established everywhere, raising awareness locally, and influencing policy. The first Common Good communities and regions are emerging, and by networking with other initiatives, an increasingly strong international movement is evolving.
10 Cornerstones of the ECG
- The Economy for the Common Good is the departure point to an ethical market economy, whose goal is not the increase of monetary capital, but the good life for all.
- It implements human dignity, human rights and ecological responsibility as values for the common good in the economy as well.
- The Common Good Matrix shows how these values can be lived in everyday business life. It is continually being developed and should be decided upon democratically.
- Companies use the Matrix to draw up a Common Good Balance Sheet. In the Common Good Report, they explain the implementation of the common good values as well as their development potential and make an assessment. The report and balance sheet are reviewed by auditors an made available to the public.
- Societal support for ECG Companies is first of all provided in the market by consumers, cooperation partners and common good-oriented sponsors.
- As compensation for their above-average performance, ECG Companies are to receive legal advantages in taxes, loans and public contracts as well as in international trade.
- Business profits serve to strengthen the companies, generate income and provide for long-term financial security of the owners and employees, not, however, to increase the assets of external investors. Thus, the owners are given the freedom to develop common good-oriented business practices, free from pressure to achieve the highest possible return on investment.
- The impulse for economic growth dwindles. Possibilities for a fulfilled life with preservation of our natural bases of life open up. Appreciation and fairness as well as creativity and cooperation can develop better at the workplace.
- The limitation of wealth inequalities increases the chances for equal participation of all in economic and political life.
- The Economy for the Common Good movement invites people to help shape a new economy based on dignity, human rights and ecological sustainability. All ideas for a sustainable economic order should be developed in democratic processes, decided by the sovereign and anchored in national constitutions.