EDITORIAL: Change our actions, then promote them

When the chief economist at Morgan Stanley says globalization is

set for demise, it is tough to know how to respond. We tend to feel

ill-equipped to argue with someone in such a powerful position, with

such knowledge of global capital markets. And yet one wonders how much

Stephen Roach was looking to grab headlines with this statement.



Since the first group of serfs decided they could more effectively

provide the food for their village if they amalgamated their strips of

land, focused on one crop, and then swapped some of that crop for

another crop from another village, capital markets have grown

continuously larger.



Not only have they expanded over space, but also over time - using

various credit mechanisms, mortgages, stocks, bonds, futures, and so on.

Will the September 11 attacks stop globalization in its tracks when

several plagues, wars, and natural disasters have not done so? Highly

unlikely, because it is imperative for corporations to keep growing if

they are to stay alive, and to keep growing they must keep finding new

resources and new markets.



At last week's ICCO summit (see p. 5), Ketchum chairman Dave Drobis was

similarly dismissive, insisting that globalization would not fail, and

also that it can be a force for good. He said PR has to help change the

image of globalization. "If globalization was a brand, some of its

stakeholders would be demanding a name change and a relaunch," he said.

"No people are better suited in the world to tackle this beside our

profession."



Perhaps he is right, but he and the PR industry in general must realize

that this is one of those examples of an issue - a huge issue - where PR

must work on changing behavior within organizations before it does too

much work externally promoting a sometimes flawed product.



Sure globalization has sometimes been a force for good, providing jobs

for the jobless, homes for the homeless, healthcare for those who have

been without. But it has also been a byword for American, Japanese, and

European corporations acting in oppressive, environmentally damaging,

and culturally insensitive ways. It was telling that just hours after

Drobis gave his speech, Kirk Stewart, VP of corporate communications at

Nike, was admitting that Nike accepts that its developing world

employees are doing "tedious, repetitive jobs" that do not pay

sufficiently for them to support a family.



His honesty is admirable, and presumably he would argue that it is OK to

pay people these wages because they are still better than the average

wages in the countries in question. But, if we are to make a more

positive case for globalization, we will have to do a bit better than

"we're paying above the average wages in that country" as an

argument.



It is back to the eternal issue of global corporations justifying their

actions according to free-market economics and short-term profits,

rather than looking at their impact on society and possible long-term

benefits of investing more heavily - and carefully - in the countries in

which they operate. There are positive stories out there, but PR pros

who start taking these stories to the media had better be damn sure

their corporations are practicing what they preach or else the PR

person's credibility, as well as the credibility of their paymasters,

will be seriously undermined.



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