PWC: What is the purpose of business?

“What’s your purpose?” asked PWC and the Huffington Post a few days before the Academy Awards. Their ‘Red Carpet with a Purpose’ would turn out to be more about red faces.

“At PwC, we constantly seek opportunities to help people find and live their purpose. So, come Sunday, while celebrities and studio heads are walking the red carpet, PwC will be hosting a red carpet event of its own. Only, instead of asking individuals what they’re wearing, we’ll be asking them to tell us more about their purpose―their reason for being.”

In the wake of “EnvelopeGate” PwC sacrificed two of their people to save the numbers as Simon Sinek might put it.

Until today I wasn’t aware of this discussion about the purpose of business, on a PWC ‘Question Time’ event last July.

“Is it to maximise returns on the equity invested by shareholders? Or is this a reckless interpretation of the capitalist model? Taking place on the hottest day of the year so far, it was fitting the debate was similarly heated.

“Newsnight anchor Emily Maitlis put the question to our panel of experts chosen to represent a diverse range of views including William Reeve, co-CEO of hubbub.co.uk and founder of Lovefilm.com; Camila Batmanghelidjh, CEO and founder of Kids Company; Dr Michael Viehs, Research Fellow at the Smith School of Enterprise; Nick Anderson, a leading fund manager; and PwC Partner Leo Johnson.”

Some readers may have seen it. What they are less likely to have seen appeared here on Linkedin 3 years ago, in my article – ‘What is the purpose of business?

My article was based on extracts from the 1996 treatise for a people-centered form of economics, as delivered to US President Bill Clinton. It included a challenge to shareholder primacy, describing a business model which applies profit to social objectives. It came from a pioneer of purpose-driven business.

What even fewer will know is that in 2010, PWC were called on to respect the IP of our product, described as a ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine:

“I understand PwC is working with East Europe Foundation and British Council on BC’s SE Project in Ukraine.

I’m pleased to see this effort, and commend you on volunteering.

However, there are some unaddressed legal issues involved. Namely, copyright. The entire project derives from http://www.p-ced.com/1/projects/ukraine/national/

I’m not sure it would be appropriate to call the project to a halt on grounds of Intellectual Property Rights violations because the project is so badly needed for Ukraine. I am sure that the Ukrainian side will not think twice about IPR violations. Ukraine remains among the worst locations in the world for such violations. Without IPR protections, it is extremely unlikely that social enterprise can take root in Ukraine. Reason: any social enterprise project, anywhere in the world, which is capable of turning a profit can have the ‘social’ part stripped out in favor of increased financial profit. If you understand Ukraine, you surely understand that is instinctive. There is no cognitive loop involved. Ukrainians see no point and assign no importance for IPR. IPR theft is an Ukrainian sport.

By contrast, UK and the US do understand IPR protections. There is no way forward without establishing IPR protections from the start of this project in Ukraine. It is incumbent upon UK and US partners to set the course and hold fast to it.

Therefore, on principle, by law as understood in UK and the US, and to foster the viability of the entire SE project, it is appropriate and necessary to square IPR issues before the project proceeds further. It can be shut down entirely, but that does no good for anyone except to reinforce the importance of IPR.

I shall look forward to your response, and will contact EEF and BC separately.

In the meantime, I wish all of you the best of holidays. And this note for the Christmas season: I’m not Scrooge, but maybe more the ghost of Christmas present. Remember Ignorance and Want at the end of that chapter.

With best wishes,

Terry Hallman

Founder

People-Centered Economic Development”

It wouldn’t be the last attempt to hijack our work. In 2015 Huffington Post published the story of another ‘Marshall Plan’ for Ukraine.

As an anti-corruption parliamentarian revealed, this was The Firtash Octopus at work and there were no shortage of volunteers to help him whitewash his reputation.

The background to this story is that our founder Terry Hallman had spent several years in Ukraine alongside civic activists at Maidan to deliver his proposal for Microeconomic Development and Social Enterprise in February 2007. Published in full in Forum magazine the following August, in February 2008 he called on USAID and the Senate Committee which funds them for support.

USAID showed up in 2010, along with The British Council Erste Bank and PWC. They would not engage with civil society. Instead they brought on board some of Ukraine’s most avaricious oligarchs as partners.

As Einstein once said, you can’t solve a problem with the same thinking that created it. Likewise, you can’t solve a problem using the same people that created it.

In his activism for social and economic justice, Terry had spoken plainly about these partners, several years before they became partners:

‘Excuses won’t work, particularly in light of a handful of oligarchs in Ukraine having been allowed to loot Ukraine’s economy for tens of billions of dollars. I point specifically to Akhmetov, Pinchuk, Poroshenko, and Kuchma, and this is certainly not an exhaustive list. These people can single-handedly finance 100% of all that will ever be needed to save Ukraine’s orphans. None of them evidently bother to think past their bank accounts, and seem to have at least tacit blessings at this point from the new regime to keep their loot while no one wants to consider Ukraine’s death camps, and the widespread poverty that produced them..’

As everyone knows by now. Ukraine erupted into violent conflict at the beginning of 2014 and many lives have since been lost. How might it have been if PWC had lent their support when most needed?

Can we really build a new economy which benefits humanity, upon the old practice of pushing others out of the way to promote our own brand?

Jeff Mowatt

Director, People-Centered Economic Development UK

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