It’s not all about you

Bernie and JenLast week the media was a buzz over comments made by Myer CEO Bernie Brookes at a Macquarie Securities Conference. If you missed it, here is what Bernie had to say:

“Today’s announcement about another 0.5 per cent on the Medicare levy is not good for our customers and not good for the discretionary income world, and ideally that’s another one that may have an impact,” he is reported as saying. “Remember, a lot of our customers have equity portfolios, they’ve got superannuation and they get the bills each week, and suddenly the Medicare levy costs them another $300 from July next year and that’s $300 they might have spent with us.”

To paint the full picture the purpose of the levy is to raise funds that will support a better life for hundreds of thousands of Australians with a significant and permanent disability, and for their families and carers.

Understandably a lot of people are disappointed in Bernie’s insensitive and arguably greedy remarks. When contemplating the consequences of the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) levy Myer were clearly focused on themselves.  Bernie’s comments no doubt will lead some to believe Myer cares about maximising their share of each customer’s wallet with inappropriate disregard for broader social and economic conditions.

How much did they think about what the levy means for those of their customers who are disability pensioners?  Did they reflect on what it means for our community as a whole?  Of course when people have less money to spend the retail industry is impacted.  That’s simply logical: less discretionary income means less discretionary spending (including in retail stores).  But the point Bernie clearly missed is that supporting disadvantaged members of our community is a far greater priority than discretionary consumerism.

Hands and worldHere we have yet another example of corporate ‘bubble behaviour’; that is operating within the confines of a self-centred world without appropriate focus on the bigger picture and those around us.  If organisations want real and long lasting customer loyalty they need to get out of their bubble and think about the community they are a part of.  People want integrity from business leaders; and that takes more than being honest and playing by the rules.

Integrity is also about compassion, kindness and corporate social responsibility.  Also referred to as “corporate citizenship” the concept is simple: out of the goodness of their hearts organisations are willing to incur costs, wear losses or take actions that have no financial benefit to the company, in support of social and environmental priorities.  Standing up in front of an audience to declare disappointment in the lost opportunity for you to make money because the community is channelling funds to the less fortunate is far from a good example of corporate citizenship.

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4 thoughts on “It’s not all about you

  1. I can tell you directly from a father with a disabled daughter that his comments and those of the BCA “the levy is a bad idea and we don’t need a gold plated scheme” are offensive, self serving and completely out of touch with the community I am part of.. It is so insular they fail to see that there is also an economic upside with more disabled individuals and carers being able to participate in the work force and more consumers. If you look at this factually it’s a win/win. We are so closeted to our thinking in regard to balance sheets we forget that economics is a science and it’s not there to serve some isolated profit and lose but for the improvement of our society. I am sick to the core of hearing the “trickle down effect” being deployed in many different guises to influence the economic debate. Despite the fact that it has been debunked as a failed economic strategy for decades. The distribution of wealth is a necessary part of a society that values everyone, supporting the fortunate through middle class welfare is like being a pusher. Designed to get people hooked on easy money to buy popularity and then when it comes time to remove it and place it in areas of greatest need it produces the epileptic shock of withdrawal. The group think that has pervaded our society, business and politics is hurting us all by not allowing us to have open and honest conversations about how we want our society to grow and be nurtured. We instead fall back to phony debates about debt and surplus, about what we can afford rather then what the cost is if we don’t act. Simplistic self interested arguments that more then often build a straw man just so we can pull it down and prove a point which in essence has no ethical or economic basis. Australia was once prized and praised for it’s innovation, optimism and courage. It seems to me we are more aptly described, as fearful, short sighted and lacking vision. Disability Care is not new it’s been perused by many for decades. It is a policy that brings the best of us to the fore but we still can’t seem to embrace it for fear of some short term consequence. I go as far as to say this is the same for the Carbon Pricing scheme, school funding, gay equality, Asylum seeker policy and the list goes on. The debates should be had but they should revolve around all the facts, ethical, moral, scientific and economic not a singular position based in a prism of self interest.

    • Thanks Don. I especially like your comment “not a singular position based in a prism of self interest”! Unless we can see past our own view of the world, unless we can be so much more than self serving, humanity and the planet will continue to struggle.

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