Obesity is a weighty topic at the moment if you’ll forgive the clunky pun. The issue is complex and it’s not all corporeal. In some cases it’s corporate.
Big business is under the spotlight as never before.
How big is best? Is big even best? What does big do to small?
At the end of last month, some of our global tech giants were put through their paces by members of the US Congress. The fundamental proposition was: ‘are they just too large?’
The accusations related to competition, anti-trust, pricing and, ultimately, the impact on consumers and society of organisations that wield extraordinary levels of power because of their size. When you add technology into the mix it’s a potent combination.
The respective leaders of the behemoths that are Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook did their bit in front of congressional representatives with Jeff Bezos declaring in a series of prepared statements; “I love garage entrepreneurs – I was one. But, just like the world needs small companies, it also needs large ones. There are things small companies simply can’t do.”
It is said that over hundreds of thousands of years, armies have been obsessed with the correct size of a military unit. The answer (as is often the case) can be found in the goldilocks principle: not too small but definitely not too big.
In the commercial world it’s important that we are cheerleaders for growth and of course on many levels scale matters: it creates infrastructure, momentum, innovation and jobs. Much as the famous four testified to Congress.
The issue comes when the pressure of, or desire for, unrelenting corporate growth affects the quality, culture and fundamental decency of a business; when it crushes the things around it and acquires a level of size-related immunity that makes it untouchable.
Then we have a problem and we need to take a good look at our diet.
As we navigate the shocks of Covid-19 and find ways to stem the impact of the pandemic on our global economy, it will be large corporations but also nimble, flexible and locally community-connected businesses that will help us through.
Jo Lloyd is the managing director at Camargue