Excerpt from World Inc.
Money Matters — The Social Force in Products
About a mile beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean sits a vast array of aquatic riches ancient mariners never noticed and never knew to look for. Scientists have discovered more than thirty thousand dormant volcanoes dubbed "sea-mounts." These immense treasure troves are teeming with exotic creatures and abound with unexamined forms of life. These mini-cities provide a superabundance of warm waters, attracting plenty of life to the area from afar. I think of these new domains on our old earth often, especially when I scrutinize the stock market, dredging for new investments.
More than a hundred hammerhead sharks pass by any given sea-mount in a single day. Coral reefs fan up several feet a mere seventy-five miles off the coast of Monterey, California. Large deep-water sponges populate these curiously pure-white mounds. Some of these sponges are so large they house three crabs at a time in their creases. Mullet, snapper, and shrimp-like krill live like kings in this environment that's rich with resources and possibility.
"The treasure trove long thought to exist at the bottom of the sea is a reality," proclaimed Pat Klimey, a marine biologist from the University of California-Davis, when I asked for some electronic images. "What kept us from noticing is we didn't have the power to illuminate or to investigate such depths until recently. It is a metropolis inhabited by hundreds of species found on or near the sea-mounts."
These vanquished volcanoes spawn all kinds of new life, much like the squandered value of the many Fortune 500 companies no longer with us. Nearly two-thirds of all Fortune 500 firms have folded since NASA began spawning small computers and heat-resistant materials in 1972, dying or consumed by bigger corporate entities. Yet we did not know enough, then, to talk about what such destruction in global markets yields our new S Frontier — where swiftness, creativity, and severity reign. We can now talk about these vanquished companies using the inviting metaphor of sea-mounts.
Sea-mounts constitute new avenues for upward growth in the sea, much like the parts of a deteriorating company are reused and revamped by new companies as they grow. Since so much of the action at a sea-mount is invisible to those of us living in the 19 percent of the earth that's not yet ocean, it's like the odds of discovering a really good investment. You need new and special tools to uncover such hidden value.
In my talks about our new global-equity culture, I often refer to rating agencies as helicopters hovering above the crimes of corporate self-regulation. They help us police our investments, and there are plenty of them on the beat. At last count, I found seventy-four legitimate rating groups, most with a global reach. I now believe these rating groups offer us more than policing. By examining all of the colorful life of the many different rating agencies, I began to sense that the world of third-party corporate ratings is as rich and diverse as these sea-mounts. Many of these groups are fiercely independent and incredibly influential. They each offer the Social Response Capitalist new forms of life that magnify the color, appeal, and market consequences of ordinary multinationals.
Never before in human history have there been so many different and active parties quantifying, examining, and offering advice on corporate risk. This will yield a better world. In fact, the leverage points of these groups are immensely productive, as this new ocean of rating groups collides with the innovations of an HP and a Toyota. Because of the ratings groups, we understand the potency and sustainability of these companies, so we can invest in them; when we invest, they have more money to put back into innovation....
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