Caring Capitalism

With the G8 spectacle now over, it seems that some of the world’s most powerful capitalists have ditched their brutal profiteering to reinvent themselves as community activists. Blogging for the Huffington Post Prince Charles observes that “we have to maintain the fabric of community and not let it become threadbare.” His Royal Blogger is writing to plug his film which, he says…

…explains the ‘Business Connector’ scheme which I hope will soon become a nationwide scheme. It takes people from big business with top class business skills and parachutes them into the heart of run down areas to give those who are striving to regenerate their communities the sorts of skills and connections that they would not otherwise have access to.

Great stuff: it seems that the business elites who have worked so hard for so long to evade tax and undermine public services, are finally going to be helping the people whose lives they have destroyed.

Similarly, last week in the Huffington Post the father of private equity, Sir Ronald Cohen, highlights a phenomenal turn-around; informing us that the “UK government underlined its commitment to explore the significant potential of impact investment as a new way of tackling social issues with the announcement that the G8 is establishing a Taskforce on Social Impact Investment, which I am privileged to lead.”

This ongoing project of positive social change is one that Sir Cohen has long been party to through his role as the founding chairman of Big Society Capital — the Tory’s brand-spanking new community financing initiative. This being just one of Sir Cohen’s fine contributions to creating a new society, with other stellar efforts seeing him infiltrating the board of trustees of the warmongering International Institute for Strategic Studies in his ongoing attempts to win the powerful over to his vision of a socially just future.

In this work it seems that Sir Cohen has worked ideological miracles upon John Chipman, the militaristic chief executive of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. This is because in recent years Mr Chipman has become a member of the excellence council of the Dubai-based private equity firm Abraaj Capital: a group whose web site observes: “we understand that businesses can no longer operate independently — they are inextricably linked to the health and wellbeing of their host communities.” Indeed, Abraaj Capital appear to have revisited capitalism’s basic premise of profit before all else, adding: “We believe that true profitability cannot be achieved without a sustainable approach…”

Unfortunately, Mr Chipman’s other work as an advisor to the chairman of Mubai-based Reliance Industries — which is the  largest private sector company in India — does not (yet) come up to the same green, dare-one-say, anti-capitalist standards set by Abraaj Capital. This is because just last year it was announced that the proudly capitalist and exploitative 2 Sisters Food Group had entered into negotiations with Reliance Industries to organize their forthcoming expansion into India. However, despite such set-backs some green-ground has been broken at Reliance Industries as their chairman, Shri Mukesh Ambani, is the vice chairman of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Luckily for us all, this green fever is contagious, as the brother of the founder of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the Swiss industrialist Stephan Schmidheiny, is Abraaj Capital board member, Thomas Schmidheiny: Thomas being the proud head of Holcim, which is the world’s second-largest supplier of cement, aggregates and concrete. With such polluting industrialists firmly on board with the concept of sustainable capitalism, it looks like our planet’s future is in safe hands.

Likewise, one should celebrate the fact that yet another Abraaj Capital board member, Sir Paul Judge, is a long-standing board member of ENRC, which “is one of the leading diversified natural resources groups with integrated mining, processing, energy, logistical and marketing operations.” Given that ENRC “operates in Kazakhstan, China, Russia, Brazil and Africa (the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique and South Africa)” workers can now give a sigh of relief, safe in the knowledge that their formerly oppressive employers will be shifting to a new green sustainable-mindset which will surely mean an increase in their poverty wages, and a decrease in their daily exposure to violence.

Returning to our good sustaining friend Sir Ronald Cohen, one should acknowledge the exceptional advances he has recently forged in the private equity world through his chairmanship of Bridges Ventures — a private equity group whose “founding principle” is that all the funds that raise should be “dedicated [to] social and/or environmental goals as well as aiming to achieve financial returns for investors.” Founded in 2002, their web site gives thanks to Sir Cohen’s very own Apax Partners, and two other private equity giants, 3i and Doughty Hanson, which together they note have backed Bridges Ventures since their inception.

Having greased the world of private equity with ample green lubricants, as of last year Sir Cohen stepped down as the chair of Bridges Ventures to head up their advisory board. In this more relaxed assignment, Sir Cohen works alongside the likes of Sir Michael Peat (one of Prince Charles’ most trusted aides) and Chai Patel, who is the former chief executive of the Priory Group, which is an independent provider of mental health care facilities — sold to Doughty Hanson in 2002 for £289 million.

On top of such neat connections, one should celebrate the good news that Lord Noon, the assistant treasurer of the Labour Party, works under Sir Cohen on Bridges Ventures advisory board, as he can supplement Sir Cohen’s great work with his Conservative Party chums with his own activism within the heart of the opposition party. Speaking of supplements, Lord Noon can also boast of being a board member of NeutraHealth plc, whose major products include organic foodstuffs and vitamin supplements: NeutraHealth being a wholly-own subsidiary of the Indian corporate giant Elder Pharmaceuticals Ltd.

Sustainable practices are seemingly being spread far and wide, and it is interesting to note that another supplement producing business (part) owned by Elder Pharmaceuticals is BioCare, which makes a tidy sum distributing Patrick Holford’s very own special brand of alternative medicine. Holford’s treatments providing the type of remedy vigorously promoted by alternative health pioneer Prince Charles.

More recently, in 2009, Bridges Ventures launched their Bridges Sustainable Property Fund, a venture that received assistance from corporate sustainability coaching guru John Duggan. In addition to previous working for Wal-Mart to green-over mega-warehouses (like the humongous Magna Park), Duggan resides on the advisory council of the recently established Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility — which was set-up courtesy of the late Nigel Doughty (the cofounder of Doughty Hanson). A Centre whose prestigious advisory board is chaired by former HBOS chairman, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham.

The Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility is headed by David Grayson, the author of the business classic Corporate Social Opportunity (2001). Over the years Professor Grayson has worked closely with Prince Charles on many of his projects, most notably having served as the founding chief executive of The Prince’s Trust. Moreover, Professor Grayson has just completed a five year term as chairman of one of the UK’s larger social enterprises and largest eldercare providers, Housing 21; a group whose current chairman is Lord Stoneham (the Lib Dem’s spokesperson on pensions and specialist on regeneration, housing and the economy). Another notable board member of Housing 21 is Mike Stansfield, the former Director of Wilson Bowden plc and former chief executive at David Wilson Homes Ltd.

One could think of no better a choice of a greenie industrialist to have served alongside Professor Grayson at Housing 21, as Stansfield’s former employer Mr David Wilson, is himself well-known for his own green fingers as he funded the eco-friendly David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester, and is a patron of the National Forest Charitable Trust.

With so many influential businessmen now turning their minds to environmental matters, rest assured that the future of the world is in safe capitalist hands. Naysayers like socialists may put the dampers on such assurances, but just ignore them, the profiteers have everything in order.

Heaven forbid if you choose to listen to writers like James Ridgeway, author of The Politics of Ecology (1970) — which the New York Times referred to as a “fine, tough and indispensable book.” A writer who over four decades ago observed:

At first glance it may seem surprising, but companies which create most of the energy and cause the pollution are the leaders in the anti-pollution crusade. These large corporations anticipate that by dominating the ecology movement, they can influence the rate and manner in which pollution control is achieved. In some instances the companies own subsidiaries which can sell products to control the pollution which they create through other subsidiaries. Most important, the ecology crusade serves as a screen behind which they are amassing control over different resources. (To cite but one example, Standard Oil of New Jersey, the mother of trusts and greatest oil company in the world, moving beneath the ecology banner, has stealthily gained a near corner on coal resources in America.) When that job is complete, a handful of international corporations will control the different fuels, and be in a position to dictate world-wide uses of energy, and, hence, determine the rates of pollution.

But please do ignore such criticisms, and sit back and relax… the ruling class have everything firmly under control.

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