The problem with short-term thinking

During the short and rainy days of February, it’s noticeably more difficult to keep our energy up. “Maybe tomorrow I’ll trim that tree, rake those leaves, or clear those gutters.”

As grown ups, however, we learn that we can put certain things off only so long before the negative consequences start to outweigh the benefits of procrastination. From damaged credit to the failure of a beloved fruit tree, both are automatic feedback loops that drive us to do things differently next time even though we’d prefer not to use our time and money that way.

Our government and the business sectors have similar challenges. Over the last decades, they have adopted various ways to enable procrastination and avoid spending time and money on long-term opportunities and risks because, let’s face it, the leaders of today won’t be the leaders when the long-term risks finally hit the fan.

Major shifts in the status quo practices of government and business are rare, but last week might have been one such event. The largest asset management firm in the world announced a significant change in policy that will send ripple effects throughout multinational corporations.

BlackRock Inc. ( has decided to step in where government has proven ineffective over the last many decades. BlackRock manages $6.3 trillion in assets for their clients. Larry Fink, the CEO, decided to draw a line in the sand. He stated in his 2018 Letter to CEOs, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.” He criticized companies for their intense focus on short-term quarterly profits which drive the wrong decisions for employees, customers, and the communities where they and their business partners operate around the world.

Governments and non-profits can no longer afford to pick up the tab and try to undo the social, economic, and environmental damages done by multinational corporations. Regions desperate to attract new employers are more than happy to loosen the laws that bring in tax revenues, conserve their natural resources, and protect the health of their citizens. They too are entirely focused on the short term. BlackRock is doing just what corporations have needed for decades — a higher ethical bar and a level playing field.

I, for one, am excited to see what happens next.

— Beth Berglund writes Choices for the Future for Kingston Community News, a Kitsap News Group publication. She is a member of the board of Stillwaters Environmental Learning Center.