A Hemp Report Editorial
Checking the World Wide Web news, there's a lot of controversy about Google and its new business relationships in China. For those who haven't been paying attention, Google has agreed to censor its excellent search engine so that it can enter the Chinese market and keep up with its competitors Yahoo and MSN.
Handy Visual Aids:http://images.google.com/images?q=tiananmen
For many people, the debate splits two ways: on the one hand, there are the commentators who are sticking to the classical adage that a business is in business to please shareholders by making money. And that it should, sensibly, adhere to the laws of the state it is doing business in.
At the other extreme, there are critics who distrust market forces, think business and profit is inherently evil, and that Google must operate to a higher standard than the Pope, and possibly even Marx, would hard pressed to meet.
The Hemp Report recently made the decision to pull Google ads from our web site because we believe in a third proposition: that a company can use the marketplace as a positive force for change. Our decision to get involved in hemp many many years ago, was the result of the desire to merge the heady ideals of changing the world, while meeting the practical necessity of putting food on the table.
Not that we made much money from those ads (we are a rather specialised and low traffic site so Google ain't going to miss us). Nor in fact have ever really made money doing the Hemp Report. But I can tell you this: in our own quirky way, we must be doing something right, for the HR has served as a gateway for other opportunities that have rewarded us many many times over. These gifts have been personal, intellectual, creative and, oh yeah, financial.
Besides showing that we had some brains, something of a work ethic, and being good at what we did, I believe that a large part of the reason that we received these gifts was that we had integrity and were committed to doing the right thing. People noticed. Today, all of us work today in companies and ventures that match our values (plug time see: www.hemptrade.ca
.) In a lot of ways we are pretty lucky. And the good news for you is that the HR survives, on a when-we-have-time basis,
Now Google is one of the largest Internet-based companies in the world and working on a business scale that makes ours somewhat comical. And China has emerged as a massive trading partner for North America as well as a major investor in our domestic economies. Generally speaking, trade is much more constructive than boycotts or a heavily-armed policy of containment, and is definitely much more constructive than resurrecting the racist Yellow Peril of the 19th century.
But you know, we are not just talking about goods such as energy, wheat, timber rights, mineral concessions and cheap Wal-Mart stuff. And not just services such as tourism, media, and education either. Modern business is also trafficking in the marketplace of ideas. For when you think about it, products are not solely physical artifacts anymore. They are also mental constructs. They have become Brands.
Good Brands rely on the successful bundling of symbols and values with product. Ben and Jerry's is not just an ice cream company: they are also known for philanthropic and environmental leadership. The Body Shop is not just another soap line, they are promoting health and environmentally-progressive issues. And if you are successful in today's business, one of the more destructive things you can do is to work against the brand image that you have created. And when your brand is dependent on the idea of the free flow of information, supporting censorship is NOT the right way to present your message or your product.
So as a media venture that believes in the free flow of information, HR is rather sensitive about certain issues. So when we have a situation where a western media company chooses to gloss over the fact that the Chinese government uses tanks to turn its own citizens into small pieces of bloody pavement, well, a line had to drawn in the proverbial sand. Google's corporate decision to self-censor their Chinese search engine puts them on the other side of that line. And since they showed that they don't match our values -- our Brand -- the relationship had to end. Bye bye. We think maintaining values is the Right Way to Do Business.
Back to Hemp. There is a lot of Hemp opportunity in China (see http://english.people.com.cn/english/200111/04/eng20011104_83867.html
), and while some companies are working with Chinese ventures, its very important that they do not take the regrettable route that Google has chosen. Your values come first. So if you are importing Chinese hemp textiles, don't buy ones manufactured through sweatshop labour. If you are importing organic hempseeds, make sure its Certified Organic and not "brownbag" or "backdoor" Organic. If you are buying hemp oil in bulk, please make sure its not rancid. And if you are selling Pedigreed Seed to them, what is in place to prevent them from pirating the genetic material? Taking short cuts will undermine your business. Avoid the race to the bottom, and work to bring Their standards up to Ours. Do not choose to overrun your ideals with tanks for a dollar.