In the last couple of weeks a slew of articles have come out announcing last year’s earnings for some of our favorite CEO’s.
• JP Morgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon received a bonus of over $16 million ;
• General Mills Inc. chairman and CEO Ken Powell received $13.4 million in compensation, up 105 percent from $6.5 million in fiscal 2008;
• and, Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) CEO Gord Nixon was paid C$10.4 million in 2009
From investments in mountaintop removal coal mining and coal-fired powerplants if you’re Chase’s Jamie Dimon and financing of the horrific Alberta tar sands if you’re RBC’s Gord Nixon to supporting Indonesia’s rampant rainforest destruction for palm oil if you’re General Mill’s Ken Powell, profiting from environmental destruction is alive and well.
While it is no surprise that big businesses and big banks are raking in billions even as the unemployment rate hangs around 10%, I can’t help but be a touched shocked at the flagrant arrogance of these CEOs. Even as many of us dream of a new set of values and a new model for our economy and our society, business success is still measured by the old paradigm of continuous growth and maximized return on investment. You grow and you get rich or you die.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. As explained by Judy Wicks, an international leader in the local living economies movement:
“Over the last ten to fifteen years, the socially responsible business (SRB) movement has made great strides in raising consciousness about the responsibility of business to serve the common good, rather than simply increasing profits for the benefit of stockholders. The triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit has become a new measurement of performance for a growing number of companies that consider the needs of all stakeholders – employees, community, consumers, and the natural environment, as well as stockholders – when making business decisions.”
Until our economy puts a proper value on clean air, clean water and a stable climate as well as fair wages and safe working conditions we will continue to see CEOs profiting at the expense of people and the planet.
Can you imagine the day that bonuses are tied to the emissions a CEO helps prevent, for the acres they help save or the solar panels, wind turbines and energy efficient buildings they finance and build? I can.