Over here in Europe, it’s been an interesting and cold winter so far. The UK media have talked consistently of the ‘cost of living’ crisis, especially the energy crisis. Regularly there are stories of households and small businesses who are dealing with massive energy, especially electricity, bills. Sometimes the jumps in bills are 5 times what previously normal, other times the jumps are double digits and more. There are also stories of some smaller energy companies going bust, while other energy companies are forcing their way into people’s homes to fit pre-pay meters, which effecitvely turns off the energy supply to households. It has been difficult for many.
At the same time, we are hearing of the big energy companies reporting record profits. We’re talking massive profits.
The thing I find sad or odd is that each of these companies have corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. They are ‘doing their bit’ or ‘giving back to the community’. They will build a school here, plant some trees there, provide a grant to some STEM projects for children in a couple of places. And they will tell the world how good they are. And yes, these small projects can be beneficial to communities, they can even be lifelines for some schools and communities. But is still sad.
If energy companies wanted to be ‘good corporate citizens’ the cost of energy should not have risen for the consumer like it did. The companies blamed Russia, the Ukraine crisis, and all sorts of other things for the rise in cost. And yet, why didn’t they reduce their record profits down to ‘normal profits’ and use the difference to reduce the cost of energy for the consumer?
I’m reminded of Steve a local, small businessman just up the road from us. When we need extra logs for our fires, he supplies us with a truckload. His prices this winter are the same as last winter. In discussion with him about this, his response was refreshing, ‘I can pay my bills, pay my staff, and make a small profit – I don’t need to need to raise my prices just because I can.’
Businesses play a key role in our communities and societies. Greed, on the other hand, does not. It is destructive. When businesses behave well, they don’t need more CSR programmes. They just need more Steves.