A new emergence among the top trends was the expectation of changing values in the global political economy. The direction of this change is varied, some predicting the victory of compassion over the current core global values of business and profit. Others predict a gradual acceptance of our current economic state as permanent and ‘normal’, whilst others believe that the world will come to accept the irrelevance and unsuitability of democracy in the face of current challenges. Overwhelmingly, respondents from North America identified this trend. None from International Organisations or Governments identified it.
How [business leaders] think changing values are influencing global business and political priorities, practices and decisions is debatable; its existence, on the other hand, is a real and potentially “seismic”
Are values shifting in the current global political economy? The results of a Global Agenda Council survey suggest that business leaders, particularly in North America, believe so. How they think changing values are influencing global business and political priorities, practices and decisions is debatable; its existence, on the other hand, is a real and potentially “seismic”.
By comparison, not a single survey respondent representing government or an international organization identified “changing values” as a major 2012 global trend. This stark contrast, at first glance, may seem surprising. Yet, it supports what has been become a guiding assumption of the Global Agenda Council on Values – old social contracts have unravelled and new “social covenants” are needed.
Former shared notions among global stakeholders about fairness, agreements, reciprocity, mutual benefits, social values and expected futures have all but disappeared. The collapse of the financial systems and the resulting economic crisis has not only caused instability, insecurity and human pain, but it has also generated a growing disbelief and fundamental distrust in the way things operate and how decisions are made.
Over the last 20 to 30 years, we have witnessed a massive breakdown in trust between citizens, their economies and their governments. That is why we urgently need a new social covenant. Contracts are what have been broken, but a covenant adds a moral dimension to the solution that is now essential. By definition, a covenant will require the engagement and collaboration of all stakeholders – governments, business, civil society groups, faith groups and especially young people. Social covenants should be discussed in many contexts and their results will vary from place to place.
The following eight values provide a baseline for building effective social covenants:
- Value basis for new agreements
- Emphasis on jobs that offer fair rewards for hard work and real contributions to society
- Security for financial assets and savings
- Serious commitment to reduce inequality between the top and bottom of society
- Protection or stewardship of the environment
- Awareness of the impact on future generations
- Stable and accountable financial sector
- Strengthening of both opportunity and social mobility
Covenants that promote these values support human flourishing, happiness and well-being as social goals, and affirm the transition from a shareholder to a stakeholder model of corporate governance.
A moral conversation about a social covenant could ask what a “moral economy” should look like and whom should it benefit. How could we do things differently, more responsibly, more equitably, and yes, more democratically?
In forums where business and political leaders meet, the conversation should focus on the meaning of a moral economy as a way to safely interrogate our present failed practices. Such a discussion could lead to new practices driving both ethical and practical decisions about the economics of our local and global households.
Lack of trust and cooperation is bad for politics, bad for business and bad for overall public morale. It undermines peoples’ sense of participation in society as well as their feelings of social responsibility and makes them feel isolated and alone – more worried about survival than interested in solidarity.
Since the “contract” has been broken, a new conversation about “covenant” is now needed. What better conversation could we have for the common good?