One thought about Responsible Leadership #1 – Mashudu Molefe

In our new blog series “One thought about Responsible Leadership”, Mashudu Molefe from South Africa – who is an Ambassador of the World Business Dialogue – asks himself the question: Do you believe that the purpose of capital should be transmogrified by governments to better inform responsible leadership? He reflects on the purpose of capital and how we have to rethink it in order to act as Responsible Leaders.

Mashudu says: “In order to shape our collective values in ways that benefit society as a whole, we need to ensure our values are embedded in dialogue and not our egos.” Read his thoughts and share your personal ideas below.

Do you believe that the purpose of capital should be transmogrified by governments to better inform responsible leadership?

The belief that there is an adverse trade-off between financial and social returns in the context of capital is nescient. I say that because I believe that as civil society we decide what capital is, how we wish to think about it, how we wish to structure its purpose, how we want to deploy it as well as how we want to understand its performance.
For governments to effectively transmogrify the purpose of capital to better inform responsible leadership, they need to create a scorecard that makes it mandatory for businesses and investors to conform to certain norms. Before an individual or a firm engage in a project that requires that they deploy capital, they need to provide the government with an action plan that embodies the following factors:
 
  • Capital as a means for economic prosperity through social change.

If individuals and corporations are merely charged a fee for consistently polluting and increasing their carbon footprint, the behavior will persist until society collectively understands that money has no real value and that could potentially be too late.To avoid the possibility of reacting too late, we need to adopt the use of capital to climate change. We need to substantially reduce our carbon footprint and deviate from using non-renewable resources that negatively impact our environment. As individuals, it’s time we start viewing ourselves as the market, not a part of it. Understanding that the things we do and the choices we make on a daily basis have an effect on society and the progress that is made in the “real economy”.

 
  • Capital as a moral principle.

Civil society needs to make it a priority that corporations are held accountable for all their activities. In order to shape our collective values in ways that benefit society as a whole, we need to ensure our values are embedded in dialogue and not our egos; that way they are in-line with the values of others.The pursuit for profit by traditional capitalists has led to precarious working conditions; this is a result of laws that focus solely on economic growth and disregard purpose. The gap between the haves and the have-nots continues to widen and very little attention is being placed on this issue. We need to change our view on traditional capitalism, change how we construct corporate hierarchies; institutions need to ensure that all employees experience a positive change in their livelihoods as institutions experience a positive change in their bottom line.

 
  • Capital as a positive driving force for economic development through digital transformation.

We are approaching an era characterised by a digital revolution encompassing the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI). These in addition to other factors will lead to fixed costs decreasing substantially and marginal costs nearing zero in almost every industry. I am cognizant of the risks that these factors pose economically and socially. For that reason I believe that it is important that laws exist to ensure that the capital directed at these innovations is closely safeguarded.Effectively deploying capital towards these innovations could help with accelerating the shift to a sustainable global economy by making work more capital-intensive and less labour-intensive which could assist with fast-tracking initiatives like universal basic income.

 
  • Capital as a long term construct that counters excessive short-termism.

Corporations need to be compelled to have a body that ensures that all their investments and activities are impactful in the long-run. This approach will yield social and economic returns not only for the business but for society as a whole. By ensuring that businesses are sustainable in the long-term and don’t exploit the scarce resources that exist, we will be creating a world that future generations will enjoy and safely live in.

In conclusion, we need to understand that we won’t be successful in our pursuit to ensure we use capital in sustainable ways if we view our own success as being a separate component from the success of others.

A noble Buddhist concept on achieving nirvana is rooted in ensuring that your partners, colleagues and other sentient beings achieve nirvana. You cannot be liberated if someone else is oppressed.

Through dialogue we can become Responsible Leaders by coming together and redefining what capital is, how we wish to structure its purpose, how we want to deploy it, how we view its value as well as how we plan to use it to create the world we want to live in. 

Capital’s relationship with Responsible Leadership should become embedded in every individual’s train of thought. That way the purpose of capital will be expanded to incorporate new factors that will assist leaders with making responsible decisions.