In episode 11, we scrutinise ethics. Just as we have called our podcast Consumerism in the 21st Century, we quote from the late Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ radio series on Morality in the 21st Century. For Lord Sacks, outsourcing morality to the market and state has been
“a fateful experiment [in which the] market gives us choices; the state deals with the consequences, but neither passes any kind of judgment”.
Vera Hoelscher is unequivocal when it comes to policy and consumer choices. She excoriates “how it’s still seen as a luxury to buy chocolate that wasn’t in part harvested by children”. As long as governments in the Global North do not expect the same legislation which protects people and environment at home to apply in the countries where raw materials and finished products are sourced, the poor will keep subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich. Legislation notwithstanding, low wages and commodity prices and hazardous conditions in the Global South – or even in parts of the Global North – are morally inexcusable. The markets cannot only benefit corporates and their shareholders.
We must be discerning about marketing, rejecting the lure of the latest, fastest, rarest, especially if that product is built on exploitative practices. On the other hand, Vera cites companies that are conscious of the impact of their merchandise on people and planet.
Influenced by Gandhian principles, Chetna Gala Sinha urges us to think about an alternative AI – “ancient intelligence” – that leverages traditional knowledge and practices. Wealth is not necessarily defined by modern luxury; it can come from creativity and nature.
Chetna shares her journey building the Mann Deshi Bank in India, taking perfectly numerate rural women looking to manage their finances to the corridors of the banking regulator. Fast forward two decades, and she is co-chairing the World Economic Forum at Davos in the same year as Lord Sacks’ radio series. Referring to “courageous capital”, she tells the world’s most influential institutions and leaders – on a panel moderated by Christine Lagarde – to look at the social returns and impact of their solutions, not just the financial ones. Speaking truth to power, with an unmistakable sprinkling of ethics.
Available on all major streaming platforms
Founder and CEO, Mann Deshi Bank and Foundation
Chetna Gala Sinha is an activist, farmer and banker. She is the recipient of the Nari Shakti Puraskar, India’s highest civilian award for women who work in the area of women’s empowerment. She has served as a Co-Chair of the World Economic Forum in Davos (2018), Switzerland and as a Co-Chair of Financial Inclusion at the W20 Summit (2018) in Argentina. Chetna founded the Mann Deshi Foundation in 1996 in Mhaswad, a drought- stricken area of Maharashtra, with the aim of economically and socially empowering rural women. In1997, she set up the Mann Deshi Mahila Sahakari Bank-India’s first bank for and by rural women.
Lecturer in Marketing, Royal Holloway, University of London
Vera’s research focuses on shared spaces of ethical consumption. Looking at both the physical as well as the digital realm, her aim is to explore the impact sharing space can have on networks of ethical consumption. She recently published an article on the qualitatively different affordances of physical versus digital spaces in the Journal of Business Ethics together with her co-author Dr. Andreas Chatzidakis. Vera is an active member of the Centre of Research into Sustainability at Royal Holloway and co-leads the Digital Organisation and Society’s research cluster on digital inequality, ethics and cyberactivism.