Consumer ethics

We had a wonderful discussion over dinner tonight about consumer ethics, or at least that was what I felt it was about. I’m sure others had different takes on the conversation, but for me it was a really great reminder that I think the world is changing, albeit slowly, in a very positive way.

Third world debt seems to be an ever hotter topic, it may even be solved at the upcoming G8 summit. movements like fair trade are growing at really strong rates. Free range chicken and eggs are ever more popular. I believe that citizens of the western world are becoming more ethically conscious, and fundamentally, more responsible consumers. Another great example is the protests against Gap and McDonalds in recent years, whether justified or not, it shows a greater consumer focus on ethics, which I think is a great thing.

It also really hit me tonight, during our conversation at dinner, that I really believe the future is in organisations seeing their customers as key stakeholders. An example was given of John Lewis, or more correctly, the John Lewis Partnership. John Lewis is a major high street retailer in the UK, and owned and run on a cooperative basis. The staff own and ultimately run the business. While I think that’s a wonderful step forwards from the likes of The Royal Bank of Scotland, who generate huge profits for a shareholders, I believe the ultimate state of corporate enlightenment is where the customer becomes the shareholder.

Suddenly tonight, I was reminded that there is already a company that operates on that basis, they call it an anti-corporation. It’s called Adbusters / The Black Spot Sneaker Company, and as a customer, I’m also a shareholder, and was invited to vote on one of their recent key business decisions. It’s such a wonderful concept, so simple and yet so hugely effective, I really believe it’s the future.

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