Tackling the root causes of the UK riots

From an article in the Guardian Sustainable Business Hub last month

“The riots last summer seemed to come as a shock to the country. The fast-developing situations that engulfed many parts of the UK were spoken about as if they’d burst out of nowhere. But looking back, it’s clear to me that the ingredients for that explosion had been simmering away for years.

Unemployment has been cited as an important cause of the riots. In fact, 79% of rioters, and the same proportion of the general public, believed this to be case in polls undertaken by the Guardian and the LSE as part of their Reading the Riots research. This is no real surprise with long-term unemployment at its highest since 1995. The important thing to take note of from the Guardian’s data is that, in reality, the issues discussed in the context of the riots were the usual line up of problems that consistently prevent people from gaining and sustaining employment. These issues were just given more exposure for a couple of weeks a year ago.”

The issues were in fact given a lot of exposure 7 years earlier, in a proposal circulating the social enterprise community, which argued the strategic case for  tacking poverty through a different perspective of the “bottom line” in business:

“Traditional capitalism is an insufficient economic model allowing monetary outcomes as the bottom line with little regard to social needs. Bottom line must be taken one step further by at least some companies, past profit, to people. How profits are used is equally as important as creation of profits. Where profits can be brought to bear by willing individuals and companies to social benefit, so much the better. Moreover, this activity must be recognized and supported at government policy level as a badly needed, essential, and entirely legitimate enterprise activity.”

Capitalism Is An Insufficient Economic Model

It was similar to the reasoning in a proposal from a year earlier which argued the case for tackling poverty in a peaceful Islamic community concluding:

“Just as the US now heavily uses smart bombs in warfare, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the equivalent is needed in aid efforts. It is not enough to spend, say, US$ 7 million dollars for five Tomahawk cruise missiles and then spend a fraction of that amount in building a peaceful community which does not merit targeting by missiles. Yet, that is what we have in this case.”

Drawing attention to this and other aspects of our work on business for social purpose does not go down well with the Guardian, who have blocked me from online comments, since my response to an article on Creating Shared Value.

The Guardian article I refer to above comes from Business In The Community who were introduced to this work via their Mayday Network forum.  Stephen Howard their CEO , joined the call for a new kind of capitalism last year, with his Business Case for being a Responsible Business.

“What is needed is a form of capitalism that is driven by businesses which not only think about the short term returns but also about building longer term sustainable businesses that create economic, environmental and social value”

This perhaps is the real root cause of the riots, the distance between being the change and talking about it, a culture which builds reputation by brushing aside the authentic.

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