The Moral Duty of Power

Events attract a lot of people – at least that’s what we are hoping for most of the weekends during the summer. This post finally motivated me to roughly calculate the overall number of guests that stroll over our events every year.  26 events add up to about 5.6 million people. We operate mainly in northern Germany with exceptions in Munich, Cologne, Frankfurt, Berlin and Dublin. It is not easy to come up with a reliable number, firstly, because we do not do head counts (attendance is estimated in consultation with the police) and, secondly, because at some of the larger events we only manage certain areas. Also, there are most likely returning customers, who attend multiple events, so as you can see there is no practical way to figure out how many unique visitors we actually have. Being a recent graduate still feeling that I-am-going-to-change-the-world spark in my event manager heart I thought to myself that that is pretty damn impressive and that one cannot ignore that fact that millions of people eat, drink, buy and listen to what we chose – kind of. Basically what we do is sell concessions for our events. With that money we pay for infrastructure, security, entertainment, waste management … and hopefully my retirement yacht in a couple of years. Therefore our influence on consumption is only indirect. There are events that are not hugely profitable for vendors, so we have to take what we can get. I could come up with numerous excuses why we cannot give away concessions to organic and socially responsible companies only, but I would betray that spark that I do not want to lose to reality just yet. Here is what that it is telling me:

“Yasha, as the young amazing professional you are, who will most likely take over your father’s business one day, you have the power over 5.6 m people and what they stuff into their bellies, pockets and purses. You cannot ignore that power with a clear conscience. Use it!”

With that in mind I came up with the concept of our moral duty. I consider it my moral duty to offer organic, responsibly farmed and environmentally friendly sausages – for example. We have a customer, who does most of the grills at our events. Sometimes he gets the exclusive right to sell sausages, which obviously is more expensive. This is very convenient both sides. He has the necessary man-power, easy to handle grills, the experience and even a sausage factory to pull this off. I do not want to comment on the quality of his product, because I do not know much about it. All I can say for sure is that his meat is not organic. I personally believe that the average person is eating way too much meat and that eating less, but ‘better’ meat would greatly benefit our health and the environment. The problem is that our sausage guy is not going to like my idea, and neither will most of our guests. While I am under the impression that conscious eating is becoming more of a thing, the majority of western society still gives zero craps about where their food is from as long as it is cheap. That might not be true for some countries, but the Germans are known to be real bargain hunters when it comes to groceries. Hm, so there’s horse meat in the lasagne “but shit, it was 99 cents”.
Put into more general terms, it is our moral duty to use whatever power we have to do good. It does not matter if you are cleaning bathrooms and decide to switch to more environmentally friendly soap or if you are the CEO of a global clothing giant, who gets to decide whether to spend a little extra on the roof of your Bangladeshi factory. If you are an Olympic gold medal winner, get up there on that podium and tell the world that you wouldn’t fill up your Porsche with shitty gas and that you should take care of your body the same way. I am not claiming to be the first one to write about this idea, but that does not matter. The only thing that matters is that you after having read my jibber jabber ask yourself what you are in control of and what you are making of it. Make conscious decision and do not get lost in excuses. You might not change the world, but I am sure you can do good in your world.

I try to be realistic about the things I can change. I was eager not to lose track of my passion during the transition from university to full time employment, because what happens is that reality smacks you in the face with a bat as soon as you present your glorious ideas you and your brilliant flat mate came up with over one too many pints after having spent two hours on campus that day. That is why I was very excited when I stumbled upon the Club of Hamburg, a foundations that provides a setting to discuss, develop and promote ethical business practices and advice on leadership culture. I am part of a work group called ‘honourable merchant’ that focuses on the meaning of that ancient term, its history and future. During our meetings I am surrounded by a hand full of people, who come from all kinds of industries united by their belief that one should not abandon ethics for short term profits.

I hope I succeeded in motivating you to reflect on your role as someone who has the power to make decisions, no matter how insignificant they seem. If you don’t know where to start go look for your own personal ‘Club of Hamburg’ that can help you follow through with your ideas. No one ever changed the world over night or on their own.

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