Do you know that the wealth of the ten richest men has increased by half a trillion dollars since the pandemic began? An amount more than enough to pay for a vaccine for all and prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus? This information was released in the OXFAM Report “The Inequality Virus” released this year. A study where we see the inequality between the poor and the richer worldwide was exponentiated during the COVID crisis. Not surprisingly, the economic inequality faced during this period has the potential to be the highest recorded in the last 100 years. 

In fact, poverty reduction was probably the most relevant success story in terms of the great challenges Humanity faces. In the last 30 years, the number of people living in those conditions was halved (from 1.6 billion to 800 million). However, according to the World Bank, poverty increased by around 97 million people just in 2020. Women were, in fact, the most affected, losing at least $800 billion in income in that year, an amount equivalent to more than the combined GDP of 98 countries. At the same time, the pandemic embodies one of the worst job crises in over 90 years, with hundreds of millions of people now underemployed or out of work. Adding to this, from the more than 4.5 million deaths due to COVID-19, most of them affected disadvantaged people with no access to health care. 

With this scenario in hands Deepak Xavier, Oxfam International's Global Head of Inequality Campaign, affirmed last July when some of the richer in the world initiated their Space Travel ventures: “We’ve now reached stratospheric inequality. Billionaires burning into space, away from a world of pandemic, climate change, and starvation. 11 people are likely now dying of hunger each minute while Bezos prepares for an 11-minute personal space flight. This is human folly, not a human achievement”.

This is an interesting discussion we don't have an answer for. But one that brings thoughtful reflections: If we have the money and the technology to solve the COVID crisis and world poverty, why are we not working on this seriously? We know Jeff Bezos could afford to pay for everyone on Earth to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and still be richer than he was when the pandemic began. Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg are possibly in the same position. What do we miss? What are the main hurdles and the main barriers preventing our businessmen and world leaders from being truly Responsible Leaders?

This is a reflection nourishing the purpose of our Center: “to contribute to a society where we only have Responsible Businesses led by Responsible Leaders”. We know this only can be achieved if everyone works together in the same direction.  For that, we should join efforts and let us be guided by the spirit of the SDGs, particularly the SDG 17 – partnerships for the goals. This is a work our Center develops every day, and we promise our efforts will keep growing this new Academic year. We also count on you to pave this path together!

I finish these thoughts with a provocation launched some time ago by a well-renowned writer: Leo Tolstoy: “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” As a Leader, did you already decided to change yourself?

Have a great and impactful week!

Filipa Pires de Almeida
Deputy Director
Center for Responsible Business & Leadership

This Newsletter covers the SDG 1, 8, 10 and 17.

This article refers to edition #104 of the "Have a Great and Impactful Week" Newsletter.
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