Did you know that the wealthiest 1% of people on Earth have more wealth than the rest of the population in the world combined? And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has increased inequality rates and it is expected to keep rising. This means that the gap between rich and poor is increasingly widening. What will this mean for those in a more vulnerable state? And how can we, as future leaders and business owners change this course?
Sustainable Development Goal 10, as posed by the United Nations, calls for reducing inequalities within and among countries in every aspect. It promotes the social, economic and political inclusion of all notwithstanding age, gender, disability, race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity or any economical status. Therefore, by 2030 the UN hopes to ensure equal rights for everyone by eliminating discriminatory laws and policies, controlling markets, financial institutions and fair trade in vulnerable communities to reach integral social, economic and environmental development. The targets set by the UN for SDG 10 are as follows:
Target 10.1: Reduce income inequalities
Target 10.2: Promote universal social, economic and political inclusion
Target 10.3: Ensure equal opportunities and end discrimination
Target 10.4: Adopt fiscal and social policies that promote equality
Target 10.5: Improved regulation of global financial markets and institutions
Target 10.6: Enhanced representation for developing countries in financial institutions
Target 10.7: Responsible and well-managed migration policies
Target 10.a: Special and differential treatment for developing countries
Target 10.b: Encourage development assistance and investment in the least developed countries
Target 10.c: Reduce transaction costs for migrant remittances
Inequality means the unjust distribution of wealth and resources. In today’s world, a larger number of households are living in societies where income is still unequally distributed. Consequently, this income bias harms the opportunities that people have, especially when it comes to access to decent jobs or educational services. Furthermore, there are certain vulnerable groups such as migrants, people with disabilities or women, who suffer greater inequality of income and opportunities.
SDG 10 is key to achieving sustainability as it is intrinsically connected to the other goals of the UN Agenda; for instance, inequality is an obstacle to ending hunger (SDG 2), promoting equal education for all (SDG 4) and fighting to end climate change (SDG 13). For that reason, the UN considers inequality as an impediment to accomplishing world sustainability.
Sustainable development is defined as the development that satisfies the needs of the present without compromising future generations’ needs. It seeks to achieve economic progress, social welfare and environmental protection.
On that account, we can not achieve sustainable development if we exclude any part of the population. Inequality means a threat to social and economical development, as it weakens many countries and promotes poverty. When it comes to education, inequality creates barriers that continue between generations; when health, it reduces life expectancy and productivity. That is why countries that have lower life expectancies and higher infant mortality rates are the ones that have higher levels of income inequality. Equitable societies usually are the healthiest ones.
Providing that we reduce inequalities in income, health-care services and education, we can achieve wealth. If there are more equals societies, poverty rates will decrease significantly and people will have the same opportunities.
In that way, companies are a critical factor in achieving this goal since they require adequate and decent workspace, especially for unfavourable groups, redistributing equal wages to employees and implementing mechanisms for tax evasion. In that way, organizational practices would trickle down inequality, still, it could also perpetuate inequality rates by benefitting certain groups over others in promoting or rewarding.
However, progress is being made as more businesses are committing to be more equal. For instance, many companies are encouraging equality between men and women in access to employment, promotion and working conditions. Moreover, organizations are providing support to workers with different abilities by facilitating inclusion and labour integration.
Businesses have the potential to eliminate inequality. They all have the aim to respect human rights, implementing policies that ensure that. Also, it is important that governments work hand in hand with companies and that their relationship is transparent, this will positively impact human rights. In other words, if the government is honest, businesses will be honest since the government’s morals will be reflected in the behaviour of business leaders.
We all flourish together when everyone is treated equally.
The 20 innovative companies we were assigned came from different business sectors and countries, truly showing how vast the issue of inequality is, to the point where it has infiltrated every geographical and social area. Businesses, domestically and internationally, either abuse and exploit minorities, or further reinforce them by denying minorities as employees. On the other hand, it depicts the range of individuals who strive to better the world, more specifically concerning SDG 10. It is important to note that each SDG is interconnected with each other, as they affect one another, and this can be seen as all companies were targeting more than SDG 10. Half of the companies contributed to SDGs 8 and 12, which are Decent Work and Economic growth, as well as Responsible Consumption and Production, respectively. What we found truly inspiring was the fact that the majority of the innovations and companies that were developed were created because each of the individuals who created them had personal experiences with the inequality they aim to abolish. For example, Re-Deme Studios was founded by a mother of a dyslexic child who was more comfortable and worked effectively through the use of visual and kinesthetic learning. Re-Deme Studios provides resources for disabled kids to learn through the use of art and expression.
Below are 9 notable companies we were assigned which each affected a specific, different community that faces workforce inequality. We chose to focus on these because they are the most dissimilar when it comes to technicalities, yet because they aim to develop inclusion within the business realm, the message strengthened by these companies is similar. Once again, proof that regardless of differences, individuals and entities can grow a mindset and system which aims to benefit society and the fewer privileged communities.
These business innovations cater for different types of inequalities, from financial inequality to physical in the form of disabilities. Furthermore, each innovation penetrates different markets, such as technology in the form of apps, food and beverage through sustainable coffee and chocolate production, as well as construction. The companies also operate on different levels of growth, from Tony’s Chocoloney which is a multinational company, to Nahui by GM which is a local company. The common solution provided by these innovations is to provide disadvantaged communities with the resources and knowledge to go beyond and break free from the cycle of inequality. This conveys the message of teaching a man to fish so they can fend for themselves, which we as a team, support and endorse.
The reason we would brand these companies as flourishing businesses is simply that they, not only positively develop themselves but, impact the lives of those in a community outside of their organisation. This allows a domino effect of good as a society will benefit from the increased amount of viable skilled workforce, thus the economy develops.
We were dealing with very diverse companies which were not only characterized for being from different parts of the world but were dedicated to disparate business types, industries and sectors. The companies’ main activities were related to a very diversified framework, that is, enterprises’ industries ranged from Food & Beverage to Computers Software. Notwithstanding, a very surprising fact for the group members was that even though the companies were dedicated to different industries, they all have a common objective, which is the improvement of the aspects of lives of less advantaged people, which at the end of the day can be translated into a reduction of inequalities.
The fact that such diversified companies shared the same goal – inequality reduction – is clear evidence that equality can be achieved from distinct sectors of the economy. This raised awareness amongst our group members and has, therefore, served as a lesson for us students. Our previous belief that equality could only be fought from very specific sectors of the economy was eradicated. An interesting outcome in our discussion was that in such a globalized economy and society, equality can be achieved through very contrasting approaches which is something that could end up leading to improvement in all aspects of society and therefore provided for optimism among members. This optimism was born over the assumption that if the enterprises from most industries of the economy can fight against existing inequalities then there could be a point in time where inequalities are very little or non-existent. However, the group members were also concerned about the fact that this is not something that can happen from one day to the next, since such a change requires a lot more things than just enterprises aiming for equality, this is a societal problem that concerns many other aspects of society and not just enterprises dedicated to such goals.
Additionally, the group members realized how applying ethics – in this case, inequality reduction- to businesses leaves room for economic benefit, which was deeply surprising as we all had a previous judgment that underlined the fact that enterprises whose aim is to provide for ethics in their activities are not somewhat subject to success when it comes to economic terms and that such kind of enterprises are normally NGO’s. Contrarily, we all witnessed as we kept discussing that we all thought and felt that at the time of thinking of opening a new enterprise -being an entrepreneur-, we could with no problem take into consideration the possibility of aiming to improve sustainable development goals. We all believed that allowing for equality in the creation of a business could even turn out to be an advantage.
Furthermore, three members of the group, matched in the matter that they wanted to become entrepreneurs in the future and they all three agreed that this activity had potentially moved them to action in the sense that sustainability can be a powerful tool to generate economic benefits. Not only do sustainable goals provide for economic growth as the enterprises we analyzed demonstrated but it also leads to the well-being of citizens and therefore for society in general. Companies must seek these goals to do well, they must go a step further and instead of doing good they must aim to do well.
A major lesson learned from these stories is that companies nowadays must apply a sustainable approach in the development of their activities without a doubt. These enterprises give evidence that this alludes to companies coming from any sector, industry or type. We believe that if companies could manage to place such an approach on their goals then society would unquestionably be positively influenced and the construction of a better society for future generations would begin. If enterprises apply such an approach then something similar to a chain effect could begin so that not only enterprises could fight against inequality, since we students also believe that enterprises are one of the main drivers of society and therefore they could act as “leaders” in the needed change society must go through.
Another interesting point that we spotted while making our analysis of the different social initiatives is that all the companies that we have studied are distinct in terms of industry, target and means of promoting equality. However, despite this fact, at one point in our exchange of ideas and insights, we realized what all these companies have in common. They all rely on a strong network of people. Although it seems to be an obviousness, the 10th SDG is aimed at reducing inequalities and this goal directly falls on the people. All the analyzed companies pretend to make an impact in a target community: either disabled people, young workers suffering from slavery or discriminated transgender people.
A consideration that came up in our discussion is that we currently live in a globalized world where companies can no longer allow themselves to leave their sustainability duty out of their business model equation. And most especially in the case of their role as protectors of equality worldwide. Apart from having to meet the newest regulations concerning employment equality, they are also pushed to engage in this mission because of consumers’ demands. Nowadays, we the consumers want to know how the product that we are purchasing was created. We ask ourselves things like 1) Are the workers of this brand well-paid?, 2) Do they work in a good working environment?, 3) Is this company sexist?, racist?, 4) Does this company make any effort to employ staff with reduced physical or mental capacities?…and so on. Consequently, companies can’t avoid implementing equality promoting practices in their business because consumers nowadays are more concerned about the origin of the product they are purchasing. And the demand for a product will fall if it is known that the enterprise is not committed to protecting equality.
One of the largest learning points from this work is that, before digging into the stories, when we thought about how companies can promote and protect equality we could only come up with HR. That is to say, we were only aware of practices like equal salaries, a balanced amount of women and men – especially on the board of management, no discrimination of any type in recruitment and dismissals… However, after investigating the different scopes of application of equality policies in several industries we have expanded our awareness and we now know that promoting equality can be deeply integrated into the whole chain process of any company. From the usage of technology to the obtention of resources from disadvantaged small suppliers of the market, almost all the actions that a company can take on will entail a positive or negative impact on the equality of the people involved in the whole process.
Finally, and to conclude with this critical reflection on our experience, we were all very happy to see that even if we come from different cultural backgrounds we had the same values regarding this issue. We used some time in our weekly meetings to get to know each other beyond this work and we shared our respective nations’ perceived levels of equality. Unfortunately, Indonesia seems to be delayed in development concerning equality and there are more discriminated communities (LGBTQ+ especially as we pointed out). Nonetheless, despite having a greater presence of this essential topic in the Spanish political dialogue, both countries should keep on striving to promote a leading regulation inequality that pushes companies to work in this direction.
We managed to adapt to the cross-cultural dynamics in our group by actively participating, sharing about each other and studying each of our mindsets. Establishing a personal connection with each other as soon as possible was very important for the long term of our essay project. The first step we took was to record a short introductory video to share with the whole class of 120+ students and watch as many as we can, paying special attention to our teammates. This made it easier for us to meet all of our group members early rather than relying on Whatsaap chat and Zoom meetings.
However, in the first meeting, our interactions were rather stiff with each other, but as time went on, we started to learn about the difference and similarities in each member’s opinions. Each of our cultures held respect highly which allowed us to be understanding of others’ perspectives. We learnt that we agreed on many aspects of the topics assigned to our group, though our opinions did vary. One of our first discussions about the SDGs included our understanding of this subject, how we were going to approach the final paper project as well as taking a look at the articles we were assigned.
As mentioned, SDG number 10 was allocated to our group, which aims to reduce inequality within and among countries. This SDG calls for reducing inequalities in income as well as those based on age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, economic well-being and social status. Not only within a country’s society but between governments, and supporting less developed countries with fewer opportunities. In doing so, we learnt a lot about how many countries’ governments or companies, wanted to make rapid changes for their people, therefore, providing proper solutions for those developing countries. For example, many countries are still intolerant toward people of minorities, but from what we learned, many firms are trying to make changes. They show that as a society, not only must we accept everyone, regardless of skin colour, religion, sexual orientation, gender, disabilities, age etc, we must encourage and support them in obtaining equal opportunities.
Lastly, this paper was developed and our opinions were made tangible.
We realize that the articles read were unique, all of the companies’ backgrounds that we covered had multiple commonalities. The idea was that as a society, future leaders and business owners, we must give to the community and help those in vulnerable states to develop in education and labour quality. Everyone has the right to receive equal income, and opportunities and feel financial, mentally and physically safe. to do so, we must be tolerant and integrate these ethics and morals into our businesses and businesses run the world and economy. Evidently, companies tend to prioritise efficiency along with decreasing cost at the expense of others deemed as “broken” or “defective goods”. Sub-consciously people have developed this unethical practice of valuing people as assets and discriminating against them even though these are characteristics people cannot change.
Additionally, we learned a few points from this project in regards to co-operations. They are as follows:
Promote Open Communication
Give every team member a chance to voice their opinions. An open communication line is essential for greater efficiency. Otherwise, team members feel under-appreciated and dominated by either the management or the dominant players in the group.
As a team, we should pause and attempt to understand why certain locations or members of the team operate differently. If you overlook the local cultures, considerations, and needs that impact each team member, it can lead to unnecessary friction.
Ask questions, listen to your team members and develop the flexibility to manage across different cultures. Listen and enquire more to learn different ways to motivate and mobilise groups with different thought processes.
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Focus on inequality and Growth – OECD. (n.d.). Retrieved March 21, 2022, from https://www.oecd.org/social/Focus-Inequality-and-Growth-2014.pdf
Kanbur, R., & Lustig, N. (1999). Why is Inequality Back on the Agenda?. Econpapers.repec.org. Retrieved 23 March 2022, from https://econpapers.repec.org/RePEc:ags:cudawp:127690.
Sustainable Development Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities. Unoosa.org. (2022). Retrieved 25 March 2022, from https://www.unoosa.org/oosa/en/ourwork/space4sdgs/sdg10.html.
Hinde, G., & Cline, M. (2022). What more can business do to tackle inequality?. Retrieved 25 March 2022, from https://www.ey.com/en_gl/corporate-responsibility/what-more-can-business-do-to-tackle-inequality
Frick, W. (2016). Corporate Inequality Is the Defining Fact of Business Today. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 25 March 2022, from https://hbr.org/2016/05/corporate-inequality-is-the-defining-fact-of-business-today.
Inequality and Sustainable Development Goals | The University of Manchester. The University of Manchester. (2022). Retrieved 25 March 2022, from https://www.manchester.ac.uk/research/beacons/features/global-inequalities/inequality-sustainable-development/.