Trillion Dollar Apple: Even Mega Companies Must Be Socially Responsible Members of Their Communities
Apple has achieved a milestone as America’s first trillion dollar company. While Apple investors were the first in the US to push their company’s market value beyond the trillion dollar threshold, the likes of Google parent company Alphabet, Amazon, and Microsoft will soon surpass the technical hurdle. As technology firms with extremely valuable products and intellectual property, the assets of these companies likely already make each of them worth far more than a trillion dollars. Nonetheless, the trillion dollar business-era has begun. To the optimist, it is a major achievement for business leadership, a point of pride for all employees, and a sign of a thriving economy. To the pessimist, it is a sign of poverty-driving income inequality and concentration of global wealth as well as power. In truth, outside of the boardroom community and a historic footnote, few actually have a reason to care about these events, which is unfortunate for a very important reasons.
The success of American companies like Apple should be a source of pride for all Americans. Its record-setting trillion dollar valuation should be a symbol of America’s economic prosperity and ingenuity. It should also guarantee employees of this tech firm greater job security and higher wages while offering their fellow countrymen a sense of increased economic security and optimism. What is good for Apple should be good for America. Apple claims it has created two million jobs, but the 80,000 positions directly provided by Apple pale in comparison to the roughly 150 million jobs needed for America’s workforce while many of Apple’s retail positions are lower paying jobs. Next to Walmart, Amazon is the second largest employer, yet its warehouse workers, which makes up the bulk of its payroll, also receive fairly low-wages. In other words, the success of major American companies means little to average American workers, including their own workers. There is no common good to unite people.
Fortunately for tech employees, at least those who actually work in the tech sector of their companies, their employers are fairly generous. In terms of pay, tech experts typically enjoy very lucrative incomes. Their employers also like to create employee-friendly environments that cater to their social and emotional needs. People work for a paycheck, but they work hard and do their best when they share an emotional and social connection to their employers. To be fair, even though wage growth has stagnated, many employers are bolstering non-pay compensation in order to make themselves more attractive to employees. Creating incentives to emotionally and socially motivate employee is nearly as important as financial compensation, yet the primary financial needs of employees must be met before any “fringe benefits” can have value. When the economic needs of employees are unmet, which is true in a great number of jobs, especially lower-income jobs, efforts to emotionally motivate, e.g. inspire pride, and socially motivate, e.g. create a personal stake in a company’s performance, will have very limited success.
More importantly, living at a financial deficit due to an insufficient income compels employees to devote greater attention to finding new opportunities to fulfill their unmet financial needs instead of focusing their energy on their jobs. Constantly in need of a new job or income source, employees cannot devote themselves to their jobs or their employer. The same is true of well-paid employees who feel their employers do not ensure their emotional and social wellbeing. Accordingly, the employer-employee relationship becomes little more than a temporary exchange of services for a paycheck. Worst of all, employees do not feel as though they belong to the workplace community, which fosters a lack of social cohesion that can undermine teamwork. Collectively, despite whatever personal feelings workers have toward their employers and managers, there is a sense that employers have a lack of loyalty to their employees and vice verse. This has helped drive a wedge between the working class and investment, management, entrepreneur class.
Because there is an employee-employer divide, the success of businesses matter little to average people outside of the paycheck they receive. For nations, the lack of social cohesion created by the largely economic divide is troubling. Businesses are an essential part of any thriving community’s success. There needs to be a parallel between the wellbeing of businesses and the wellbeing of individuals, which together should equate to the prosperity of a community. The US features extreme pockets of prosperity, often centered around wealthy companies like Apple and their employees, but there is a need for shared prosperity outside of the shrinking number of these oases. Beyond the economic dimension, there is a growing lack of patriotism. People no longer take personal pride in their nation or local communities nor do they take personal responsibility for the shortcomings of their local, State, and national communities.
People seem to increasingly view community as nothing more than an asset that can help further their own wellbeing instead of a collective endeavor to improve everyone’s lives. Businesses, as social institutions and sources of community leadership, have helped foster this socially destructive mentality over the course of decades by being overly self-serving. As companies grow larger, whether a corporation hitting the trillion dollar status or a family business starting to corporatize, there is a tendency to allow the expanding divide between leadership and community to foster an unresponsive, callous corporate culture that focuses solely on economic factors. On the surface, embracing a sociopathic mentality may seem like a sound business philosophy, but businesses do not exist in bubble, even if their leaders feel as though their status has place them in one. All businesses, including international businesses, exist in communities, so they must act as responsible community members and serve their fellow community members. They need to embrace the controls and structures of corporations, but remain community, people oriented.
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