Every human has the same fundamental needs. In a sustainable society there is room for them all. Or as The Natural Step puts it: ‘In a sustainable society people are not subject to conditions that systematically undermine their capacity to meet their needs.’ But what does that mean actually?
Manfred Max-Neef is a Chilean economist and winner of the prestigious Right Liveliwood Award, a prize for people who bring practical solutions to global problems. According to Max-Neef there are nine basic needs that every human being - regardless of ethnic and socio-cultural background - needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. Crucial point: all needs are equally important. The lack of one is a form of poverty that cannot be compensated by another. A lack of security cannot be solved by for instance more appreciation. Moreover, a need is something else than a desire: desires make life more beautiful, but needs are a basic necessity.
The fire in Bangladesh is not unique: in recent years there have been frequent incidents, not only in garment factories. Yet, that does not lead directly to a change and because of the low wages these companies remain attractive to large multinationals. This will only change if they take responsibility for the entire production chain rather than just the own organization like C&A and H&M do in response to this incident.
Sustainability is more than just providing a safe working environment for your own employees, it covers the entire value chain and hence also the suppliers. But to prevent is better than to cure, so it is time for a sustainable procurement policy, to ensure the fundamental needs of all employees throughout the value chain are met. Multinationals are ideally suited to provide us with the good examples, by speaking up and speaking to their suppliers. Pro-activity, that is what the world needs.
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