As workers and consumers, we can push companies to prioritize ethics


The writer is the author of “The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live”

How to redefine the role of businesses in society, both as workers and as consumers? We discuss this often in meetings and pitch sessions that I attend now. A younger cohort of consumers, employees, business founders and leaders are questioning old norms that put profits before people and the planet.

Workers, in particular, want to know that their employers are making serious efforts to operate in a sustainable manner. And while price, quality and availability are still the primary drivers for consumers, provenance and authenticity are rising up the list of factors they cite as important. However, trying to discern which companies are good for the planet and the people is not always easy. A lack of transparency around corporate social responsibility goals, or labor and supply chains, is always a barrier for workers and consumers trying to make sustainable choices.

Transparency is essential to drive the change the world needs. Some companies achieve this through “B Corp” status, where they are committed to balancing their purpose with profit. With the aim of having a positive impact on employees, communities and the environment, it signals to those seeking employment with a purpose that a company meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance and transparency. public.

For conscious online shoppers, stores like Waitrose, the supermarket, have provided a B Corp filter, so consumers can find brands that match their values. Patagonia, the outdoor clothing brand, Oddbox, the fruit and vegetable delivery service, and Ben & Jerry’s, the ice cream parlor, are just a few of the more than 4,000 companies in over 70 countries with B status. Corp. PwC study points out that B Corps ‘have arguably fared better compared to the UK economy as a whole,’ citing 55% of respondents to a B Lab survey who believed being a B Corp had helped improve the resilience of their business.

But the B Corp movement has its detractors: It relies on self-reporting and is not legally enforceable, so some companies may be guilty of greenwashing. However, that’s at least an indication that a business wants to do something right. As climate and sustainability become more urgent, are we going to allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good? As for consumers, it is essential that we feel empowered by having access to better information to make informed choices. Ethical scoring apps like Cogo, a carbon footprint tracking app, are becoming key tools in the march towards greater transparency – it recently launched a $ 20 million Series A funding, with a mission “to empower hundreds of millions of consumers”.

Cogo was founded by Ben Gleisner, a New Zealand environmentalist, to help consumers buy from companies who share his values. The choice to add your card details is optional, but if you wish, the app can connect to your bank account to allow it to see the companies you are buying from. You can pick up on issues that you prefer, such as looking to buy from companies that pay their employees a living wage.

Another app helping consumers make better choices is Olio, a London-based food app. Olio connects people with other people or businesses looking to get rid of uneaten food and other household items. With nearly 5 million users, the start-up has grown rapidly over the past year, and as food waste accounts for up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the UN is a welcome alternative for many.

While consumer spending accounts for about 60% of the world’s gross domestic product, according to the World Economic Forum, the choices we make matter and the power of consumption drives change.

Consumers and employees are increasingly deciding who to work for or from whom to buy based on the positive impact of a business. Is it too much to imagine a world where all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but to be the best for the world?

What I do know is that choosing where we put our time, talent and money can have a huge impact on our quality of life; it has an impact on the communities of which we are a part and, above all, on the planet on which we live.


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