Over half of the world’s 100 top GDPs1 are held by corporations. This means 51 companies have higher revenues than the GDPs of 142 nations of the 193 nations the UN recognizes!2 While not a perfect comparison, a recent Business Insider article compared leading companies’ corporate revenue to the GDP of individual nations, for example:
- If Wal-Mart were a country, its revenues at $421.89 billion would rank higher than the GDP of Norway ($414.46 billion) and
- General Electric with annual revenues at $151.63 billion would rank higher than the GDP of New Zealand ($140.43 billion) 3
Researchers at the New Scientist believe that the biggest 737 companies control 80% of the global economy.4 250 years ago, when Adam Smith penned “The Wealth of Nations,” the world’s wealth was held by nations. Arguably, in recent years, corporations have passed up many of the nations of the world. In the days of Smith, culture, the ways of life of people groups, was by and large nationalistic. Monarchies had historically sponsored world exploration, art, sports, religious expansion, and colonization. Today, we see corporations and corporate leaders sponsoring world exploration, art, sports and globalization. If corporations hold the wealth of the global economy, are they driving global culture as well? Certainly corporations have their own sub-cultures that then impact or are adopted by the cultures into which they expand. If so, the greatest impact on the cultures of the world today may be in the hands of 737 companies and their leaders. To some extent, the cultures of the world are in the hands of these individuals.
To add more statistics to the story, 31% of the world (approximately 2 billion people) is commissioned to go into all the nations baring good news and promoting justice5. While the pursuit of this has been flawed by destructive failures in the past, 6 new opportunities lie in the hands of corporations and corporate leaders to bring good news and promote justice. Bringing good news and promoting justice would include raising standards of living as opposed to exploiting the poor and oppressed. This is compatible with many corporate global strategies where standards of living have risen with wages and in opposition to other corporations who have profited from labor exploitation. Fortunately, while globalization has certainly impacted many cultures for better or worse, it has not created a global culture or diminished cultural diversity.
Today, if you want to impact nations and redeem cultures (while preserving and celebrating ethnic diversity) for justice, equality and freedom maybe the way forward is through employing the wealth and impact of corporations. This is not the pursuit of the Americanization or the McDonaldization7 of society. The pursuit of rational capitalism above all else has proven to be flawed and many leading corporations today are not American. However, global corporations and corporate leaders have a unique opportunity to celebrate diversity and to play a redemptive role in the cultures of nations like never before in world history. Corporate leaders CAN and most likely will impact culture, whether they do so strategically or not. The world could be a better place if it was the goal of corporate leadership to bear good news and promote justice in a way that embraces and celebrates ethnic diversity.
- Gross domestic product – is the monetary value of all the finished goods and services produced within a country’s borders in a specific time period.
- Shah, Anup (2002) The Rise of Corporations. Global Issues. globalissues.org/article/234/the-rise-of-corporations / The Economist Online. (2011) They are the 5%, Corporate Wealth is Becoming more Evenly Spread. The Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/11/corporate-wealth
- Trevitt, Vincent (June 2011) 25 US Mega Corporations: Where they Rank if they were Countries. Business Insider. http://www.businessinsider.com/25-corporations-bigger-tan-countries-2011-6?op=1
- Upbin, Bruce (October 2011) The 147 Companies That Control Everything. http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2011/10/22/the-147-companies-that-control-everything/#35be82917638
- Barrett, David (2001) Religometrics. World Christian Encyclopedia: Second Edition. A comparative survey of churches and religions in the modern world. Volume 2: The World by Segments. Oxford University Press.
- The Lausanne Movement (2011) The Cape Town Commitment. https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment#p1-7
- Video: McDonaldization: Interview with George Ritzer, May191 (2007, October 24). McDonaldization theory of George Ritzer. Retrieved June 22, 2012, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fdy1AgO6Fp4