An Alternative to Extremist Ideology and Terrorism

Q. How can business strategy that you describe here provide an alternative to extremist ideology and terrorism?

The leaders of terrorist organizations are, more often than not, driven by extremist ideologies. Militant Islam, for example, weaves together fundamentalist religious beliefs, moral values, and a radical political agenda to create a particularly virulent form of such extremism. As the leaders of such groups know, however, special circumstances are required to attract the large numbers of people needed to effectively advance the cause. Most people are not born to be suicide bombers or militia members. It takes a lifetime of neglect, despair, dashed hopes, thwarted opportunities, or worse–intimidation, exploitation and humiliation–to drive most people to such extremes. Only by reversing the conditions that breed such behavior–poverty, inequity, hopelessness, loss of dignity–will we deal with the root cause of the problem. Yet while thousands of lives were lost or altered forever by the events of 9-11, and hundreds of known terrorist leaders have since been killed or captured, these underlying conditions remain largely unchanged–or have perhaps even worsened. Terrorism, in short, is a symptom; the underlying problem is unsustainable development.

In the wake of September 11, then, we find ourselves at a crossroads. Political solutions to the world’s social and environmental problems have not been forthcoming, the framework conditions needed for global governance have remained elusive, aid and philanthropy have not been adequate to the challenge, and the use of force appears to create more problems than it solves. Economic globalization has shown promise, but thus far, it has not managed to reach the majority of humanity. Increasingly, people around the world are asking the question, must capitalism’s thirst for growth and profits serve only to exacerbate poverty and environmental deterioration? If the answer to this question is yes, as a growing chorus of antiglobalization activists believe, then there is little hope.

As I propose in this book, however, the?answer to this question must be an emphatic “no.” The major challenge–and opportunity–of our time is to create a form of commerce that uplifts the entire human community of 6.5 billion and does so in a way that respects both natural and cultural diversity. Indeed, that is the only realistic and viable pathway to a sustainable world. And business can–and must–lead the way.