The cost to society

(Warning – this is a bit of a rant, because this really shits me!)

Why do we feel like we need to put a dollar value on things that are bad in our culture, to get people to want to change them?

I was meeting with a good woman building something very worthwhile to help prevent post-natal depression the other day. Her extensive research studies in Sweden had shown that post-natal depression costs “society” or a “corporate” $4000 per woman and $8000 per man as partner of someone going through post-natal depression, because men earn more, in case you didn’t realise. Let’s leave that one for now.

That’s $12,000. Therefore we should address it. Now she didn’t feel that way, but the corporate partners she was speaking to wanted to know the cost, as did the government bodies she was speaking to about funding.

Why do we need to attach a dollar value? What’s with our obsession with quantitative data?

Why can’t the fact that people are suffering be enough reason to act? Isn’t it enough that we’re seeing such an alarming rise in mental health issues and suicide. We have to then figure out how much that costs us in fucking dollars? Jesus!

I was having a conversation with a client a while ago about installing a far-too-expensive soda-water tap in my old house, because we were throwing a dozen plastic bottles of soda water in the bin every week.

The “head of innovation” for this packaging company replied “it’s still doesn’t stack up. It’s still cheaper to buy the bottles.”

“I didn’t do it to save money,” I replied, “I did it to save the planet.”

It’s because we’re afraid, I know that. We feel that if we have some hard evidence to back us, so we can make a nice considered comparison to the cost of toilet paper or our hosting charges, then our decision to do the right thing will somehow be defensible. We’ll be able to “show” the benefit to the organisation.

But we shouldn’t have to. Planet, People and Profit. They’re the new measures of good business. Sure, dollars are a good metric for measuring profit, but not people, and not the planet.

It’s enough that it’s the right thing to do. Measure the impact in other ways, not dollars, or productivity. Come on. Happiness, fulfilment, relief, love…

How are we going to truly heal this planet and its people unless we stop making dollars the universal metric?

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