Berrett-Koehler Publishers has no qualms publishing books that many would consider controversial at best. They’re not the cheesy, reality-TV types we’ve come to expect in this 24/7 news world. Such tomes as John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hitman expose the dirty side of real criminals and criminal enterprises. Perkins tells of his personal journey from a “willing servant of empire to impassioned advocate for the rights of oppressed people.” Under the direction of the National Security Agency and on the payroll of a major consulting firm, Perkins travelled to developing countries to implement policies that promoted U.S. financial interests, while professing to alleviate the poverty that saddles those same countries with extraordinary inequality. Those policies, claims Perkins, only created more poverty and instilled anti-American sentiments that, in part, led to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. It’s a harsh accusation, but Perkins has the credentials to back up his assessments.
In The Corporate Whistleblower’s Survival Guide, which Berrett-Koehler published in conjunction with the Government Accountability Project (GAP), Tom Devine and Tarek Maassarini present a detailed guide on how potential whistleblowers can achieve their goal of exposing corruption and what repercussions to expect. Topics include: advising employees of their rights, with references to legal education for their counsel; legal campaign strategies essential to supplement lawsuits; key survival tips; typical retaliatory tactics; benefits for corporate leaders wise enough to listen to their messengers instead of silencing them; lessons for effective partnerships between whistleblowers and citizen activists, politicians and the media; and available resources and help groups.
In Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic, Hugh Sinclair exposes the world of “microlending,” the latest trend to help the poor in developing countries. Also known as microfinancing, the practice grants small loans to individuals to help them start a business. Women are among the typical recipients. Its purpose is noble on the surface, Sinclair states, but the ultimate goal is merely to enrich financial institutions. Most microfinance loans were going to consumption, not venture creation, and there’s no evidence they reduced poverty in the places where they were implemented.
Berrett-Koehler’s editorial director Neal Maillet invests a great deal of time and energy cultivating these types of publications and both expects and invites the criticism that comes with them. Berrett-Koehler isn’t satisfied with the gripes of disgruntled former employees, however; they demand facts and hard data to substantiate those claims. They obviously want people who are passionate about exposing the truth. Poverty and social injustices have always been catalysts for revolution. We see that happening in Latin America and the Middle East right now. As someone who’s spent several years in the corporate world, I understand the concerns of average people; wondering if executives held themselves accountable to the same ethics rules they created. It’s not a pretty picture. But, the truth about business rarely is.