Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Socially Responsible Consumer

A lot has been, and will be said about the social responsibility of businesses. But what about the social responsibility of consumers ? This article set me thinking

Each one of us, as consumers, have the power to make or break businesses – every time we buy, or not buy, something, we hold in our hand the fate of every business in the supply chain of that product. Should we not exercise this power in a “responsible” way.

Most of our purchasing decisions are purely dictated by what is good for us – cheapest price, the best quality, whatever. Nothing wrong with that. But its worth a thought if some other criteria might also come into the equation.

The area where consumers are beginning to act is climate change. Like buying locally made goods. Shunning products that are harmful to the environment (like gas guzzling vehicles). Carbon offsets in flying. And so on.

A few companies have tried to compete on a social theme. Companies like The Body Shop, Ben & Jerry ice cream, etc. But in the end they have been swallowed by traditional big businesses. That’s simply because consumers and shareholders haven’t attached enough of an importance to their social theme. But I believe that’s changing rapidly in today’s world.

It’s an interesting thought. As a consumer, why do we not consider products (without a too material sacrifice on quality or price) that either do “good” themselves, or come from companies that do “good” more than others. Admittedly it’s a difficult concept and we may not know enough to make that choice. Many a time, what appears on the surface isn’t true either. But if this starts to get into consumers’ mindset, things will change rapidly.

So perhaps the ball is in our court.