As CSU’s “Seven Days for Seven Dollars” program continues this week, William Kramer spoke about the ethical issues that face the business community in reaching the lower income market and how CSU’s emphasis on global sustainability impacts it.
The “Seven Days” program encourages students to try to live on one dollar per day, an amount similar to what many people in what Kramer, the president of The Global Challenge Network, called the “base of the pyramid” live on.
However, while the program is intended to help students understand the challenges faced by the impoverished around the world, Kramer said businesses should stop thinking about the poor as objects of charity and handouts.”
Kramer said his research estimates the base of the pyramid, which is made up of four billion people worldwide, is a $5 trillion market.
Kramer said creating sustainable markets and diminishing the knowledge gap between the base of the pyramid and the higher levels is the best way to reach the lower income markets while still being socially responsible.He emphasized that that knowledge, which he said is being “privatized, commoditized and is expensive,” is essential in ending exploitation of low-income peoples and making them viable business markets.
“Knowledge is as much an essential component to life itself as water,” Kramer said. “Everybody ought to be paying for [it].”
Kramer said a distinction has to be made between information and knowledge.
He said information is becoming more and more readily available because of technology such as the Internet, but in order to be useful, information has to be coherent.
Colleges are important, Kramer said, because the research and the education that is occurring at universities helps organize information and impact the future of the world.
“We’ve got the ability to cohere [information], and that’s the kind of knowledge that transforms people’s lives,” Kramer said.
He added that CSU is an institution that will have significant impact on the global market in the future.
“CSU is really at the leading edge of this stuff. I’d rather be here than about any other college campus in this country,” Kramer said.
CSU’s programs help to create knowledgeable business people “with a conscience,” he said.
Joseph Darnell, a global and sustainable enterprise graduate student and speaker coordinator, said the presence of speakers like Kramer further the university’s image as a leader on these issues.
“CSU has a reputation that it is trying to create,” Darnell said, explaining that the university is constantly building and re-defining its reputation.
In addition to knowledge, Kramer said businesses have the ability to create profitable markets in developing countries, allow local communities to become producers with value and allow low-income people to make choices about their financial futures.
“We (higher income groups) can make choices and not have them be fatal,” Kramer said.
He said businesses that attempt to work in low-income markets also face a variety of ethical issues including:
Changing/maintaining the status quota
Bringing global harm, such as global warming, in order to benefit local communities
Large companies competing with small companies
Breaking laws to reach, and ultimately benefit, local populations
Kramer did not offer solutions to these dilemmas but rather posed them as questions for the audience to consider.
Carl Hammerdorfer, the director for CSU’s global social and sustainable enterprise program, which brought Kramer to campus, said speakers like Kramer are beneficial to the community because they bring together students and businesses.
“It starts a community conversation,” Hammerdorfer said.
Darnell agreed that the conversation is important.
“They’re global issues, but in the end they’re going to affect all of us,” he said.
Senior Reporter Jim Sojourner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.