On Tuesday night I attended the opening party for the East End Film Festival in London. I’m not that cool.. I was invited by a friend who is much more involved in art and film. My husband was pulled away for last-minute business and wasn’t able to make it with me so I was thinking I would go to the theater, watch some artsy film, and then head home.
I met up with my friend and his partner, which was good to have some people to pal around with. But the film blew me away and got me thinking.
The UK Gold is a documentary that begins at the height of the Olympics and British fever, full of patriotism, hype, and excitement in this country I now call home. Then the discovery of tax evasion (or avoidance or haven) occurs, which apparently went rampant in the UK media. Starbucks, Google, Amazon, and many more corporations were ousted and the excitement from the Olympics turns to disdain. Since we just moved here, I wasn’t aware of all of the outcries made towards these corporations, or perhaps I missed it in the news since I tend to go on news shabbats (like a tech shabbat) when there’s too much negativity.
I was appalled to learn about the many UK-supported offshore accounts and, more importantly, the effect these have on poverty-stricken communities and countries. One story came from a charity worker in Zambia. Their organization isn’t able to get the tax funds necessary to help community members because Zambian corporations are able to store their money in the Cayman Islands, and therefore not pay the full taxes due to the Zambian government. We could get into a discussion about how much funds people should rely on from the government, but I’m not going down that road.
I question the people who are doing this, and there are many players in this game. Do they really know the effect they’re having? I want to truly believe that we’re all trying to find happiness, and the majority of people are doing their best with what they’re given. Simply making enough money to cover food, shelter, water, and some extras here and there for a bit of joy isn’t asking too much.
It’s really hard to believe that C suite executives can remove themselves that much from humanity.
It also made me think about my impact and how I use design as a tool to solve these issues, but then again how it’s such a miniscule part of the bigger picture.
Just think, if those companies paid all the taxes they owed, many communities and governments would have funds to build roads, infrastructure, homes, and more. What would the world look like then? Perhaps the 90% ‘underserved’ would vanish, and designers focused on social impact would be rendered useless because everyone would be content and have the basic necessities.
Social enterprises would also flourish and all those companies that are somehow removing themselves from their social and environmental impact would now hold that in high regard. Far fetched it seems, but I would be content with that.
Although this uproar may seem to not go anywhere, I believe strides are being made in social enterprises, entrepreneurs, investors and designers. These efforts are creating the future that we all want but are sometimes afraid to try. Who wouldn’t want to give up their yacht, nine homes, and private jet? I would hope that if they could really see the impact they’re having, they would at least do it for their children, grandchildren, and all future generations.
We’re at a very unique place right now in the world with technology connectivity, a new generation seeking true fulfillment and passion in work, and building resilient communities. These aren’t new ideas but there seems to be a lot more interest and action. Although the public interest/ social impact/ design for good movement may just feel like that–a movement–it’s going to contribute to better societies. I hope that the corporations who are hiding funds realize sooner rather than later that their actions are adding to the problem and are only a short-term, selfish solution. Supporting people who are looking at the bigger picture is where we can make them listen and contributing in our own small way will eventually turn the tides.
So support what you care about, take risks, and continue to challenge the norm because we have a lot of positive, forward movement on our side that’s tackling this age-old Gold Disparity.
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