Values like protection of environment and pro-people must supercede economics.
In the recent years corporates have been under continuous acid test and are on a constant fire-fighting mode with local communities. If the industries are categorised as being in the red or the perception that the industry is a polluting one is good enough reason for a troubled environment. Either the companies are polluting as much as claimed by some of the activist groups or it could be the perception-driven people who are dictating the economics and lives of the people dependent on the industries for their livelihood. The industries create far greater expectations among local communities on job, livelihood, business opportunities etc., but fail to live up to their expectations. There are many instances on how the hostile neighbourhood hampered the industrial projects like Singur, Ratnagiri and many more which may have not attracted media attention. The companies, whether big or small fall in the category of similar pattern of thinking that they are right and others are not. They also think that the communities are gullible.
Communities are becoming more nucleic and sub-divided into several nuclei and subgroups. The practice of one leader controlling the community is far from the reality. Loose network structures that get united for a common cause become very difficult to negotiate with. They willingly refuse to see any logic when emotions start ruling the masses and the networks. A newer strategy should evolve to counter or mitigate the threat created by action based/biased nucleic groups.
Social media is faster
The continuous propaganda by social media corrupts individual minds not to trust any authority. The messages created are to seek attention rather than communicating with any authenticity. For example a message can sensationalise as cancer risk has increased twice because of exposure to gases. But actually in a sample study of one lakh population, cancer prevalence would have increased to two persons from one. But still the message is spread like fire that the incidence of cancer has doubled in the community. There is no answer to why only a few get cancer when one lakh population have been exposed to the same environment. Lack of scientific public health studies and authentic data is missing in many instances.
The communities are endangered by the false message viruses than any other form of viruses. The continuous flow of information on one issue over a period of time will create unintentional formation of perceptions and grow into strong opinions.
No issue has ever become unmanageable overnight. Leaders with decision-making power have failed to listen to any contrary opinions.
Most of the leaders shrink back from disagreements since they consider disagreements/difference in opinions as divisive, painful and not in alignment. In one instance, when a professional brought forth the growing dissent in the community, the celebrity HR leader ridiculed the person and told that he was trying to protect his job by threatening the company. In another incident, the company failed to support projects which will directly benefitted the poorest of the poor because the company believed in building relationships with power centers as more important. The corporates failed to realise that power centres are rolling wheels and may not support them openly at the time of crisis.
hierarchy system fails
The classical example of recent Tuticorin incident reiterates the fact that a hierarchical-driven corporate failed to respond or bring effective strategies to assess the threat and take action within one hundred days. The managements are also driven by learned helplessness or are underestimating the people’s power. The organisation tends to fail because they distance themselves from the communities. They have either no information from the field or the information flow from the field is far away from reality and the vested interest people around them portray a rosy picture since the organisation rewards only those people. The agitators derive strength from their belief system and are emotionally triggered but the corporates too failed to build strong values beyond economics. The emotionally driven employees are rare in corporate.
The industries in the red category have limitations, not only to operate as per standards but also to demonstrate their social and environmental responsibility more visibly. The local stake holders should certify them as responsible corporate and without this the ISO certifications or any regulatory certification will become a mere compliance. Organisations need to develop long-term strategy and execute them despite any external or internal pressure. The corporate management also needs to continuously evolve as an agile organisation in countering the development of dynamic, volatile and neighbourhood communities.
(The writer is an Organisational Development and Behavioural Consultant)